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Transition Year Runner Up: Muireann Tuffrey of Mean Scoil Nua an Leith Triuigh, Co. Kerry

Homelessness Essay

“Government policies are causing people to be homeless. On one hand, they’re talking about finding housing to house them and on the other hand by not increasing the rent supplement they’re driving people into homelessness"

– Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy, Focus Ireland founder and president. –

Whose responsibility is it to combat the homelessness crisis: government or charity?

I wholeheartedly believe that it is the government’s responsibility to combat and tackle the homelessness crisis. Homelessness means to be without a home and therefore, typically, living on the streets. Homelessness is set to reach record levels in Ireland and has now become an emergency. Over the years in Ireland the government has tried to address the homeless issue with various acts and strategies, but clearly whatever they are doing is not working, which simply just is not good enough. Focus Ireland estimates that there are up to 5,000 people at any one time who are homeless in Ireland.

People become homeless for many reasons, and it can happen to absolutely anyone. Personal problems like unemployment, addiction, disability, psychiatric illnesses and domestic violence are just some of the issues that lead to people being homeless. Leaving state care, such as prisons or psychiatric hospitals, without the proper safeguards being put in place can also be a factor in someone becoming homeless. Therefore, it’s up to the government to assure that when people are leaving state care they have some sort of job and place to live. The amount it will cost the government to set these people up for when they come out of state care will be worth it. Otherwise, they would have to pay for them when they become homeless.  It is not the charities responsibility to help these people after the government has not provided for them.

Also, a lot of homelessness has arisen since the recession. This recession, which was caused by the government, left people without enough money to keep themselves from being homeless, while the cost of living rose with rising rents and mortgages. Instead of helping the poor people in the country, the government decided to bail out the banks. Seeing as this was the governments fault, I think it is their responsibility to combat the homelessness crisis.

To effectively tackle homelessness, it is necessary to try to prevent it in the first place. Prevention services that are targeted at people who are vulnerable to homelessness are very important. These people include young people leaving state care, people leaving rehabilitation programmes, people who have previously been homeless and those leaving prison. More people are now at risk of losing their homes due to the impact of the recession. Providing access to advice or information would help to prevent people from becoming homeless and would also support people who are homeless to move on. Charities such as Focus Ireland, which has Advice & Information services in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Kilkenny, Waterford and Sligo and who offer friendly non-judgmental support to people, have the right idea in giving people access to this information. However, these services should be provided by the government as well for the people of this country.

The government should also consider having free or subsidised education for people who cannot afford to get a degree after second level education. If people were able to access it more easily, then they would have a better chance and becoming skilled and getting a good occupation. This would hugely contribute to preventing homelessness. If people were busy with a good job, they would be more likely to stay away from drugs or trouble, and they would have more money to afford suitable housing.

The government could tackle the issues that are too late to prevent with the right attitude and determination. Long-term homelessness can be solved if access to housing is improved, as housing supply is the biggest single issue surrounding homelessness. This can be done by having an immediate freeze on rents, an increase in rent supplement, greater tax reliefs for landlords (to encourage them to put properties on the rental market), a short-term use of quick-build modular housing (such as that proposed by the four Dublin local authorities), and the building of more social housing could all help.

If actions like these are not taken by the government and if people don’t get the rent supplement, those people will be costing the Government a lot more money as the government often have to pay for them to be put in rooms in hotels. Therefore, it would make more sense for the government to try tackling the crisis, as they have promised to in the past.

To conclude, I strongly agree with Sr.Stanislaus Kennedy’s quote, and I firmly believe that it is the government’s responsibility to tackle the homeless crisis. I have given plenty of examples and suggestions as to how they could try to combat the crisis, so clearly it is not a lack of options to attempt tackling the crisis, but a lack of responsibility by the government. The government are the ones that are supposed to be running the country, not the charities. The charities are only here for the people that are neglected to be cared for by their government, and therefore, the responsibility should not be placed on them.

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