We all accept and know there is a housing crisis. Despite the Government's best efforts, announcements and plans this crisis is, unfortunately, getting worse rather than better. Research from agencies such as Focus Ireland has confirmed that an overwhelming number of homeless families had their last stable home in the private rental sector. They had to leave those homes as landlords were selling up and an increasing number of property owners do not accept rent supplement. The Government has promised that by July families would no longer be accommodated in hotels. Instead, families are being told that emergency accommodation is not available.
Today we learn that 12 families, with 30 children, were told to go to Garda stations on Tuesday night. Three of these families had been evicted recently and they presented to Store Street Garda station, while other families and their children presented to Pearse Street and Clondalkin Garda stations. These families were homeless and evicted when they presented to the Garda stations. The families depend on bed and breakfast accommodation and emergency accommodation on a day-to-day basis. The situation is bad enough but, unfortunately, the events on Tuesday have brought a very negative and extremely worrying turning point. Hundreds of phone calls were made by Focus Ireland to bed and breakfast accommodations and to hotels for the families on Tuesday night. For them, however, there was no room at the inn. Some of the families ended up sleeping rough that night. Mike Allen of Focus Ireland has said that what happened on Tuesday is unprecedented and shocking.
It is more than three years since Fr. Peter McVerry described the housing crisis as a humanitarian one. There are 61,600 households that qualify for social housing and one in five of those have been on the list for five years. There are more than 60,000 people in severe mortgage distress. Nationwide, there are 7,472 homeless people and this number has now increased by 32% since March 2016. One in three of those who are homeless are children. There are 12,056 families, including 2,563 children, in emergency hotel and bed and breakfast accommodation. In Dublin alone there are 138 rough sleepers. Hotels are now getting busy as the tourism season moves along.
This has very negative consequences for short-term emergency accommodation provision. Nobody accepts that this is normal, but what is the Government doing to prevent this becoming the norm, as appears to be the case, in how homeless families are dealt with? If hotels are booked out, what plans have been put in place to arrange emergency accommodation? Has more emergency accommodation than is currently available - as we witnessed as recently as last night and Tuesday night - been sought by Dublin City Council on a short-term basis?