Ireland’s rate of child homelessness, which has risen by 287 per cent in three years, is unmatched anywhere in Europe, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has said.
Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has said Government action and societal change are the only ways to end the homeless crisis.
The Ireland South MEP was speaking after attending the launch of the Cork Simon Community 2016 report.
“This year’s report made for depressing if predictable reading,” she said.
“Demand for the vital services the excellent people in the Cork Simon Community offer are up in every aspect.
“They have more people than ever staying for longer than ever. More women than ever are accessing their services and more people than ever are using their day services.
“Their records from 2012 to 2016 show a constant and significant increase in the numbers of people seeking their help year on year.
“These are not just statistics, these are the human consequences of years of government inaction and despite the ever increasing numbers being presented to them every year they continue to stick their heads in the sand.
“Just last month when he was presented with yet another monthly increase in homelessness across the country, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, rather than announce what the Government intends to do about it, instead actually tried to put a positive spin on the figures by focusing on modest falls in specific areas rather than the overall increasing numbers.
“The Government needs to stop the spin and begin implementing practical changes that will help people. Press releases and skewed figures will not keep people sleeping on the streets warm at night or help children being raised in emergency accommodation.
“We need to build not just houses, but permanent homes and communities. It’s not just a matter of shipping people out to half finished ghost estates. People require proper communities with the supports and services that go with them. We need to tackle not just the issues that cause homelessness but the problems of social cohesion that homelessness causes.
“This Government has shown it is not willing to do that.
“But it is not just the duty of Government to end the crisis. As a society we have to stop turning a blind eye to the issue of homelessness. This crisis is Ireland’s shame. Just as many of us might turn away and avoid eye contact as we pass a homeless person on the street, as a society we are doing the same thing on a national level.
“It’s uncomfortable for us to know that there are people in our own wealthy, developed country without even a place to sleep.
“That should make us uncomfortable.
“It should make us uncomfortable to see families split up, to see children growing up in emergency accommodation, to see emergency accommodation becoming the norm.
“It should make us uncomfortable that while banks are helping the wealthy to avoid tax, that while the Government is spending millions to protect corporations that owe us billions, there are people out there whose only hope is for a thicker coat or warmer sleeping bag as winter sets in.
“While it is disgusting that this Government lacks the political will to tackle the crisis the reason it can get away with it is because we as a society are not demanding they tackle it.
“Where is the mass mobilisation and the public outrage that we saw during the water charges protests? Because this effects us all. The average Irish family is one month’s pay away from losing their homes. This is an issue that can and does befall anyone.
“So I would urge people to write to their TDs and Senators and Government Ministers and let it be known that that we will no longer bear this mark of shame on our nation and that if they do not act to address the problem then we will elect people who will.”