I thank Deputy Gino Kenny for asking my view on the devastating crisis of homelessness among children and young people. The fact that, as of March 2019, there are 1,733 families experiencing homelessness in Ireland, and 3,821 children and young people is, quite frankly, heartbreaking. Although ultimate responsibility for addressing the homelessness crisis rests with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, my Department and Tusla are continuing to make every effort to alleviate the difficulties experienced by children and families who are homeless.
Homelessness is a traumatic experience which, as the Deputy suggests, can have a profound impact on young lives. There is no doubt that the effects of this crisis will be felt for many years to come. To mitigate the trauma as far as possible, I am using my Department’s powers and resources to the greatest possible extent in providing supports for children and families experiencing homelessness. I have ensured that free childcare is provided for the children of families experiencing homelessness, including a daily meal for each child. A total of 312 children have been registered under this scheme in the current programme year.
I have also succeeded in having young adults leaving State care included as a separate category for funding under the capital assistance scheme, CAS. That provides targeted assistance to the most vulnerable care leavers by enabling approved housing bodies to acquire residential units to accommodate them. I am pleased to report that as of last Friday, 24 care leavers have availed of places with various approved housing bodies, including 15 with Focus Ireland, six with the Peter McVerry Trust, and three with Don Bosco. Additional placements have been secured and are expected to come on stream within the coming months.
In addition, I have supported and resourced Tusla to support families who are homeless. I have secured an additional €1.5 million in 2019 to enable the further roll-out of family resource centres, which provide facilities to support families who are homeless in order that they can have a safe, warm environment for homework and relaxation and nutritious food.