Numbers tell a story.
4,922 people including 1,591 single adults were homeless in Dublin when the ‘Rebuilding Ireland’ housing plan was published in July 2016. By October 2019, homelessness had risen to an all-time high with numbers ballooning to 7,329 people and 3,093 single adults who identified as homeless in our city.
Two years on and the new Government has released ‘Housing for All’, the latest strategy on housing and homelessness. Since the October 2019 peak, there has been a 20% drop in Dublin homelessness to 5,877, largely driven by a reduction in families and children in emergency accommodation. Despite this progress, single homelessness has not reduced and remains frustratingly high at 3,033.
Over the last five years, an average of 4,500 social houses were built across the country per annum. During the same period, Dublin Simon doubled the number of families and single people we housed. In 2020, we supported just under 3,000 men, women and children to secure a home through our resettlement and prevention services, a 150% increase from 2016. Without these interventions, these people could well have been trapped in emergency accommodation indefinitely.
On a nightly basis, we are directly accommodating over 1,100 people. These include people coming from rough sleeping staying in our emergency or health & treatment beds, families and children staying in our permanent independent homes and those who cannot live independently and are staying in our long-term supported housing services. These are additional homes, treatment beds, emergency accommodation and increased support we committed to in our own Rolling Strategy, resourced and funded jointly by state and critical donor funds.
Some might say, “We saw this before in 2016 … ambitious timelines, big targets, commitments to deliver housing and reduce homelessness” so what’s different in ‘Housing for All’?
Put simply, the difference is significant investment to the tune of 4 billion euro allocated annually for the next 5 years, 10,000 social homes to be built annually and another 17,000 to be built and sold on the open market each year. In total, 33,000 homes of all shapes and sizes per annum until 2030.
One could argue there seems to be little in the plan to reduce the cost of housing for people i.e. materials and land cost, but new schemes like Cost Rental, Affordable Purchase and First Home do seem to have elements and incentives to enable purchase at current market rates.
There are eighteen specific homeless targets in the Government plan which we welcome and three of particular note:
- Commitment to eradicating homelessness
- Provision of 1,200 Housing First homes
- Continued commitment by Government to build and fund the operation of the Dublin Simon Community Medical Treatment and Recovery facility at Ushers Island to respond to the need for healthcare treatment and recovery services for homeless individuals
These are actions we and our partners in the homeless sector have called for. The Minister and Department have listened and are aware of the wider issues that exist and affect homelessness and housing delivery; shortage of one bed homes, planning delays, procurement issues, cost of materials, lack of stable workforce, all of which require addressing.
So, as we begin to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, certainty and confidence is needed in many walks of life, in your life and mine, in work, in Government direction, in housing and in homelessness. Housing delivery targets must be met and commitments on homelessness and necessary resources must be followed through. The ‘Housing for All’ plan needs to instil certainty and confidence; in Minister O’Brien’s own words last Thursday, “Time will tell and tell on delivery”.
Dublin Simon Community supports the plan and will continue to contribute to its implementation; to provide street outreach to people rough sleeping, to provide more homes in our role as an Approved Housing Body, to prevent and resettle families and singles on the brink of homelessness and to deliver more wraparound health and well-being supports.
Numbers matter and even more so, the lives behind them.
Pat Greene is the Head of Policy, Advocacy & Volunteering at Dublin Simon Community