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Taoiseach on the homeless

Gerry Adams (SF, Louth) drew attention to the ‘grim reality’ of homelessness in Dublin (Dail Eireann, Debates, 14th December 2011, 6-7).  Night after night, from summer time to the freeze of winter, people were forced to sleep rough and there were 1,281 excess winter deaths, most being vulnerable elderly citizens.  This year there would be more of them.  The Taoiseach pointed out that there had been homelessness in the city for many years and a number of studies done:


‘Their numbers vary from year to year.  Some are there because of marital rows, some because they could not get on in their own homes, some because of particular issues that affected them.    In many cases – or some, at least – they simply do not want to be housed anywhere.  I spoke to a young man recently who was homeless and on the street.  I asked him if he was in a position to stay in a hostel, but he said he could not go into one because he would be attacked or whatever.  These issues are always under review by the organizations which do such great work with homeless people and if the existing reports are followed through properly there will be a considerable improvement.


Gerry Adams: ‘Nobody is homeless by choice. Nobody sleeps rough by choice.  There are 7,500 citizens without a home and 200 sleep rough.  It is almost impossible to get emergency accommodation in this city.  … While there are 300,000 empty properties in this state, many of them owned by NAMA, we have this imbalance of 5,000 citizens homeless.  What can be done about this?  Does the Taoiseach take the homeless and housing crisis seriously?  If so, when will he appoint a minister for housing? 


The Taoiseach: ’I share the concern that no citizen should be on the streets of our cities homeless.  The reasons for this can be many and varied, personal and sensitive.  When one talks to those in that position, one learns much from them.  I recently met with the Society of St Vincent de Paul, the Simon Community and Sr Stan and her people in Temple Bar.  The programmes they want to implement over the course of several years will go a long way to alleviating this problem.


‘There are, however, new people who, for whatever reason, will become homeless and take to our streets.  In a civilized society and one as well-off as Ireland has been, this should not be a reality.  It is, however.  When I first entered this house 30 years ago, there were several people in the locality of Leinster House who were homeless.  While attempts were made to house them at various times, they did not want to do it for particular personal reasons.


‘The government is well aware of the nature and scale of the homelessness problem and will do whatever it can to alleviate it, working with those organizations which do such outstanding work night after night on the streets.  The targets set out in so many reports on this problem are achievable and will go a long way in dealing with this problem in a comprehensive fashion.  When one speaks to those involved, one learns about their views, about our country and the way it was run and how it should be run in the future’.