The position taken by the government on the homelessness crisis is very clear and it is one of a market driven solution. This is evident in the government’s repeated stated solution to the crisis, which is “Rebuilding Ireland An Action Plan For Housing and Homelessness”. In its very first line it states, “Housing is a basic human and social requirement.” Not a right or even an entitlement just a requirement. This immediately tells us of the governments negation of any direct responsibility to ensure people have access to a home. Even more significantly the paper goes on to state its aims as addressing people in emergency accommodation, moderate inflation on home purchase and rental in urban areas. Offer security to tenants and landlords. However, the most telling aim is to “Ensuring housing’s contribution to the national economy is steady and supportive of sustainable economic growth”. In other words, the Irish Government will not be engaging in any large-scalebuilding of public housing nor will it encourage in any house building that will interfere with the extravagant profits of their builder and developer friends.Gerry Gannon one such developer whose business collapse during the financial crisis, is back in clover bringing in profits of €7 million off the back of house building last year, not bad on a turnover of €35 million. No surprise then that many developers including Gerry Gannon can be found on The Standards in Public Office Commission donations records showingthemas donors during the property-fuelled boom years.
So how effective has this Government approach been to solving the crisis. The graph below shows that not alone has it not solved the problem instead it has exaggerated it. During this fourteen-month period homeless figures wentfrom 7,167 in February 2017 to 9,807 in February 2018. In a desperate and disgraceful attempt to keep the figures below 10,000 the minister for housing and local government Eoghan Murphy cynically manipulated the homeless figures in March 2018 removing more than 600 people from the homeless list.
Under pressure from the Government Housing Agency the County Councils have also engaged in a manipulation of the homeless figures. As a means of limiting the numbers on the homeless list the County Councils have decided to stop prioritising homeless people for housing, in the belief that it will stop people registering with the council as homeless. This may have the consequence of reducing the number on a page, however, what it will not do is reduce the number of homeless people. More importantly It will also have the consequences of further marginalise and damaging those people who find themselves homeless. The damage currently inflicted upon the homeless through emergency accommodationwill be exaggerated by this cynical move. A report funded by the European Union research project Re-InVest,investing in the Right to a Home: Housing, HAPs and Hubsstates that emergency accommodation exposes the vulnerable homeless to institutionalisation, hidden away and will ultimately become hidden and forgotten. This is evidence if evidence is needed of the Governments ruthless neoliberal profit before people approach. An approach that sees the market as having the solution to homelessness. A solution that heaps misery upon misery on thousands of women, men and children. In particular leaving women to carry most of the pressure as they try to carry out a caring role disproportionately imposed on them.
A real solution to homelessness will only be found in a socialist approach to the issue. This means a mass building of public housing but not in the way it has been done in the past. A mass building of public housing with proper planned infrastructure. That includes retail outlets, leisure facilities and social services including, education, health, transport and everything else that a healthy society requires to function and flourish. In the meantime, what we expect to see is a, greater level of misery to be inflected upon the homelessness. However, change is possible but only if we are prepared to take on the Government head on and on the streets, through people power and mass protest similar to that engaged in with the water protest marches.