‘We need to make our voices heard. We can do so much better’

OPINION: Determined to keep the shocking homelessness crisis at the top of the political agenda, Sr Stanislaus Kennedy, President and Founder of Focus Ireland, and a native of Lispole, has pleaded with readers to put five key questions to general election campaigners they encounter on the doorsteps or on the streets in the coming days

HOUSING and homelessness have become major themes of the current general election.

There are few people in Ireland who have not been affected by rapidly rising rent prices, a shortage of affordable housing and lengthy social housing lists. However, in all the discussion, it can be too easy to lose sight of the fact that this national crisis is having serious local consequences.

The number of people in emergency accommodation in Kerry has risen by an unbelievable 297% in just four years.

We have 2,767 Kerry households currently waiting for social housing and the average rent has increased by 33% since 2016. The ESRI has said that up to 35,000 new homes need to be built every year in Ireland just to keep up with demand.

Focus Ireland has stated that at least 10,000 of these need to be social houses. 92 social homes were built in Kerry in the first nine months of 2019.

The housing crisis is a problem, locally and nationally, and we need to make our concerns clear by voting on the issue. We need to ask our politicians clearly and repeatedly how they will fix this crisis.

How many houses they will build? What actions will they take to help our homeless young people and families?

Focus Ireland has five questions to ask your candidates along with what we believe the solutions are. If housing and homelessness are priorities for you, I would urge you to make that clear to every candidate or canvasser you meet over the next few days.

1. What are your party’s plans to end family homelessness and help the nearly 4,000 children that are homeless?  

Focus Ireland believes that the next government must put in place a specific family homelessness strategy, alongside a cast-iron guarantee that no family or individual is homeless for longer than six months.   

2. What are your party’s plans to help young people in the housing crisis?  

Focus Ireland believes that the next government needs to have a specific strategy to end youth homelessness, including the large number of young people who are among the hidden homeless.

3. What are your party’s plans to build the social housing we need? 

35,000 new homes need to be built every year during the new government term to prevent the housing and homeless crisis getting even worse.

4. What will you/your party do to prevent people from becoming homelessness? 

We need to help people so that they don’t becoming homeless in the first place. People can find themselves at risk of homelessness for a wide variety of reasons, and in different circumstances but most of the families becoming homeless were previously living in the private rented sector.

5. Do you support a referendum to create a constitutional right to safe, secure, affordable homes? 

Focus Ireland believes that a referendum to rebalance the right to private property with an explicit right to housing is a crucial step in removing barriers to tackling the housing and homelessness crisis.

We need to make it known that we will not accept an Ireland where almost 4,000 children have no stable home to grow up in. As a country, we can do better. Locally, we need to make our voices heard to canvassers and politicians on the doorsteps.

We can do so much better.

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