CARLOW children are set to spend their summer holidays in emergency accommodation as the housing crisis continues. The latest report from Carlow County Council shows that 18 more Carlow people presented as homeless in June 2019. Among them were 13 children.
Newly-elected People Before Profit councillor Adrienne Wallace said that it was shocking that some children will be spending their summer holidays in emergency accommodation and called the numbers being pushed into homelessness as unprecedented.
Cllr Wallace said: “The number of homeless in Carlow has consistently averaged at around 30 and many more people are not being recorded. There is a cohort of people who are forced to couch surf or live in overcrowded accommodation and if these hidden homeless were counted, we could see those numbers rise drastically. This is unprecedented for Carlow and cannot be allowed to continue.”
The issue also raises the effectiveness of the housing assistance payment (HAP) to meet housing needs.
One Carlow man told this newspaper that he had been ‘couch surfing’ for the last two years as he had not been able to afford a rental property with HAP.
“There is literally nowhere to go. It’s like a lottery in Carlow to get a house,” he said.
The man had attempted to secure emergency accommodation until he could reach a long-term solution, but had been unsuccessful.
He shares custody of his two children, but his situation has made it impossible to be the kind of parent he’d like to be. “I should be able to be a father to my children,” he said. “It’s not right.”
As he has no fixed address, he cannot receive social welfare, making it harder to improve his prospects.
Cllr Wallace said the housing assistance payment was not fit for purpose.
“Most of the time the HAPs will only cover €700-800 of the rent for a family, but, as we know, rents are consistently rising and in Carlow many are well above €1,200 in many cases. This usually means that single mothers are not only paying their rent to the council but are forced to top the landlord up while trying to budget for things like childcare and food. It is just unfeasible.”
Noting that Fr Peter McVerry estimates nearly €2 million a day is paid from the state directly to private landlords, Ms Wallace added: “We need to stop the profiteering of private landlords and start prioritising the needs of people in Carlow by opening the vacant homes and building on public land. Every child deserves a safe place to sleep.”