Blog: Getting practical, restoring dignity – A roof is a right

Joe O'Connor - Organiser Boards & Voluntary AgenciesWhen we began planning a public meeting about Dublin’s homeless crisis, members of IMPACT’s Boards & Voluntary agencies branch were very clear that any event must be more than a discussion which walks again over old, familiar ground about past commitments, policy decisions and whatever set of circumstances have created the current crisis. Instead, we were very focused on pulling all of the expertise on homeless service provision and advocacy into one room to talk about practical actions to tackle the homelessness crisis. I’m delighted that we’ve organised such an event and tomorrow’s Roof is a right meeting follows on from our successful pledge campaign in the run up to this year’s local elections.

We’ve brought together workers, practitioners, advocacy groups, local authorities and politicians with the purpose of identifying a co-ordinated and practical approach to addressing the crisis of homelessness in Dublin, as it continues to take hold of people’s lives.

Our members within the sector have experienced first-hand the massive increase in demand for their services and witness the personal trauma caused by homelessness every day. They’re the real experts on this issue and I’m really looking forward to their contributions at tomorrow’s meeting. They know too that the continuing provision of these essential services will rely on funding commitments to be upheld in order to meet the growing demand.

As a country we have failed utterly to build and provide adequate social housing. Despite, or perhaps because of, the property boom that left a devastating legacy on Irish society, social housing supply is at an all time low, while demand is at an all time high.  No sustainable solution to this crisis can be achieved without substantial investment in social housing, and that must remain a priority in the longer term.

However, we must also deal with the emergency situation we face now. It is in this context that IMPACT believes urgent Government intervention, through emergency rent controls, is a vital and necessary step. It would provide greater security for private tenants and a sense of stability to an oversubscribed and chaotic private rental market.

Roof is a Right comes at a time when the crisis of homelessness is advancing rapidly to the top of the political agenda. Recent months have seen a huge amount of debate across the political spectrum as to how the crisis should be dealt with. The level of engagement is welcome, the sense of urgency entirely appropriate. It needs to stay that way until we turn the tide on homelessness.

Proposals that have emerged from this debate include the reintroduction of tax breaks for property developers, the removal of the cap on rent supplement, to reports this week that a local authority is considering the use of prefabs as emergency accommodation.

Whatever your thoughts on any of those proposals, all of the stakeholders at tomorrow’s event have a deep interest in the realisation of the Government’s stated commitment to end homelessness by 2016. We must use all of our shared determination, skills and resources to play our part in making this ambition a reality.

I think it’s essential to remember that whatever solutions are implemented, restoring dignity and a sense of security for people who are experiencing homelessness needs to be at the heart of every policy decision.

Follow the debate at #RoofisaRight

Joe O’Connor
IMPACT Boards & Voluntary agencies branch