Trinity Social Democrats held their first in a series of panel discussions last night, which focused on the homeless crisis in light of the upcoming general election.
Philip Bane, the activity leader of the Soup Run for Trinity Vincent de Paul society, was the first guest speaker. He described his regular soup run, and the immediate impact and visual change, observed amongst the homeless when they are aided and recognised as fellow beings. He explored the issue of dehumanisation, and the loss of self confidence amongst the homeless.
Bane highlighted the importance of finding a long term solution to the housing crisis arguing additional emergency beds would not ameliorate the situation. He suggested that the private market provide affordable long term accommodation by utilising empty properties.
Wayne Stanley, a research and policy analyst with Focus Ireland, spoke next. Giving a brief history of Irish homelessness, he focused on how, upon investment by the State from the 90s onwards, there was a marked improvement in homelessness by 2010. He cited the 2011 census, which recorded only 64 homeless in the country, 58 of these individuals located in central Dublin. He emphasised that this proves the fact that homelessness can be solved.
Stanley went on to discuss understanding homelessness, stating that the vast majority of the homeless are only transiently so. He explained that it’s family homelessness that is driving the current growth in homelessness. He referenced the initiative Housing First as an example of a long term solution to homelessness – a project which helps about 8 families a month move on from homelessness.
Stanley also addressed the next election, and Constitution convention, stating that the constitution must include the human right to a home, and that this measure must be regarded as the next step to tackling the homelessness crisis.
He also disagreed with Bane, maintaining that it would not be wise to draw the private renting market into social housing.
Glenna Lynch, the final speaker and Social Democrat candidate for Dublin Bay South, asked for Stanley’s opinion with regards to potential marginalisation of the single members of the homeless. Stanley agreed there was most likely a threat of marginalisation within communications, as the current predominant figures in the media relate to the homelessness of families.
He did not, however, believe that the service these single homeless people received is affected negatively by the media’s marginalisation.
Lynch went on to criticise the current government’s response to homelessness, and the lack of political will to instigate change for the better in homelessness, which Stanley strongly agreed upon.
The question of proposed injection centres was then put to the speakers who universally agreed that these centres would could only work as a short term solution.
The question of public opinion towards homelessness was then posed to Lynch, who replied that awareness of the crisis was not high, as she experienced it, when campaigning door-to-door.
Lynch highlighted the need for a “revolution” in the housing system for the benefit of future generations. Stanley proposed that most current politicians just want to “hold out”, and spin housing system discussions for the three years until they safely reach the next election.
Closing the discussion, the entire panel maintained that the homelessness crisis is solvable with correct investment, and discussed the frustration of current inaction, despite the possibility of this solution.