Threshold, the national housing charity, has broadly welcomed the plan to tackle homelessness, which was announced by Government today (09.12.14). Bob Jordan, Chief Executive of Threshold, said the commitment of additional funding for frontline services was particularly welcome.
Extra Resources for Tenancy Protection Service in Dublin
“Since June of this year, Threshold has managed the Tenancy Protection Service on behalf of the four local authorities in Dublin, and working in partnership with the Department of Social Protection,” he said. “This service is key to ensuring Dublin families at risk of homelessness can remain in their current accommodation and avoid having to access homeless services. Over the past five months alone, almost 3,000 people have contacted the service.
“Our staff in the Tenancy Protection Service are inundated with requests for help from families with a real housing need, and are currently working at capacity. The measures included in today’s plan mean we can assign two extra staff members to the service.
“This will allow us to help more families at risk of homelessness. It will also allow us to devote more time to each client to work in a really in-depth way to resolve their future housing needs.”
Expansion of Tenancy Protection Service to Cork City and the South-West Region
Mr. Jordan said the decision to replicate the Tenancy Protection Service in Cork and the broader south-west region was also to be welcomed.
“As we know, the homelessness crisis is not confined to Dublin alone,” he said. “Rents are rising by up to eight per cent on average in Cork City, but many of those contacting our Cork office are experiencing even higher increases than that. Threshold has helped 670 Cork families and individuals at risk of homelessness so far this year.
“Under this new plan, the Tenancy Protection Service is now being expanded to include Cork and the wider south-west region, and Threshold will operate it there also – in partnership with Cork City Council and Cork and Kerry County Councils.
“Three staff members will be assigned to this service, and a helpline for families facing homelessness will run from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. We will also provide out-of-hours support, where necessary.
“The new Tenancy Protection Service in Cork will be up and running in January 2015.”
Long-Term Measures Needed
While welcoming the expansion of the Tenancy Protection Service, Mr. Jordan said that, in the longer term, housing policy must focus on measures to ensure families can access affordable and secure accommodation on an ongoing basis.
“The homelessness crisis we are witnessing cannot be resolved on a case-by-case basis alone, but also requires policy decisions by Government,” he said. “Rents have been spiralling out of control for more than a year now, and this has placed families throughout the country at risk of homelessness.
“To really address housing need in a strategic and sustainable way, the Government must plan ahead, rather than offer reactive measures. They must introduce increased limits for Rent Supplement, so that Rent Supplement payments are in line with market rents. They must introduce rent regulation to curb spiralling rents. And they must mainstream the Housing Assistance Payment immediately to provide people with more secure rented housing.”
Senator Aideen Hayden, Chairperson of Threshold, said a combination of policy changes and frontline service provision was needed to tackle homelessness.
“Threshold has been working to resolve homelessness for almost 40 years,” she said. “We know frontline service provision alone – while desperately needed – is not enough. Sensible policy decisions must go hand in hand with increased resources for frontline services. If we fail to develop robust housing policies now, we are merely paying lip-service to the notion of addressing homelessness.”