The Government has committed to ending long term homelessness by 2016 using a housing led approach. The Simon Communities are very supportive of this commitment and firmly believe that with sufficient resources, political will and national direction this can be achieved. In fact, it must be achieved. The prolonged economic crisis means more people are at risk of homelessness, more people are becoming homeless and more people than ever are turning to the Simon Communities for support. For many, the social welfare safety net is the only thing standing between them and homelessness. Cutbacks to funding for housing support, for health services, probation and welfare services, education and training services etc, all have knock-on effects that contribute to homelessness. This combination of factors can trigger homelessness in the first place, but can also prevent people from moving out of homelessness. Austerity budget measures are not working and are having the biggest impact on people who are most vulnerable in our society. The most recent SILC report published in February 2013 shows the ‘at risk poverty rate’ increased to 16% in 2011, up from 14.7% in 20101.
The current climate gives much cause for concern. The numbers becoming homeless are growing. Despite this the Government has just recently announced major cuts to the budgets for homeless accommodation services that are to take effect in 2013. These new cuts will undermine all of our efforts to reduce the numbers of people sleeping rough and the numbers who are long term homeless. The cuts must end. During 2012, every night on average 1,451 persons stayed in emergency accommodation in the Dublin Region alone (the only official figures available). On average there were 7 new presentations per day compared to just 2.5 people leaving homelessness.
The homeless budget must be held at the level of the 2012 allocation if we are to hold the line against the increasing tide of homelessness. If we are to go further and actually achieve the Governments goal of ending long term homelessness by 2016 additional resources will be necessary, in the short term, to allow the policy reorientation and transition to a housing led approach. The reason is simple.
We cannot close hostels and shelters until the housing and supports to replace them are in place.
The goal is achievable. The time for political leadership is now, the time to turn rhetoric into meaningful action is now, and the time to make a lasting difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable people across the country – people who are homeless and those at risk – is now.