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Homelessness on rise as rent payments stall

The government’s failure to adequately increase rent allowances has contributed to a sharp rise in homelessness, a report has revealed.

According to statistics released by the Simon Community, the end of 2014 saw 3,000 people across Ireland living in emergency accommodation, including over 800 children, and the numbers have been continuously rising ever since. There has also been a 20% rise in the amount of people sleeping rough in Dublin according to a count done in November 2014, which is the highest on record since the count first started in 2007.

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Louisa Santoro, Chief Executive Officer of the charity Stepping Stone on Camden Row in Dublin 8, talked to The Liberty about the rent allowances issue. “I don’t think the rent supplements are kept in step with market rent in reality. People are further disadvantaged because they’re paid in arrears and proposed quite slowly.”

She described Stepping Stone’s approach to dealing with individual rent supplements as being a “case-by-case basis.”

“Unlike other organisations, things like lobbying aren’t involved in our decisions of individual rent allowances,” she explained.

“If the system was resourced better along with the resources being more upgraded, there would be a good chance the problem wouldn’t be as bad. Another improvement that would help is resources not being restricted into categories on an individual basis. Making rent allowances not be in arrears would be more attractive for the upper market at present,” she continued.

The Simon Community is another charity involved in supporting people who are homeless or who are at risk of becoming homeless all around Ireland. Niamh Randall, who is the National Spokesperson of the Simon Communities in the country, spoke of her sadness and worry about the Government’s refusal to increase rent supplements.

“We are very disappointed to hear the news that rent supplement levels will not be increased by Government, particularly following the recent PRTB rent index report where we know rents have increased by 5.8% nationally and by almost 10% in the capital. People who are homeless or on the very edge of homelessness currently have no hope of accessing the housing they need.”

Concerning social housing, she continued: “The severe shortage of social housing is adding further to the problem. We need to prevent more people from becoming homeless, especially those currently losing their rented homes due to these inadequate rent supplement caps and we need to ensure that people can move out of homelessness too.”

She also explained the charity’s past communication with the government and said “Just last year we presented our 10 Point Action Plan to Ministers, TD’s and Senators urging them to ensure that homelessness is prioritised and that urgent action is taken on ten key issues. One of these recommendations was asking Government to increase rent supplement to reflect the market rents being charged. This recent announcement just increases our fears for the future.”

Minister for State at the Department of Social Protection Kevin Humphreys had outlined his reservations concerning an increase in rent allowances, stating how raising rent limits may increase rental market inflation and impact upon low-income workers and students, as well as recipients of the allowance.

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