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irish social forum |
Monday February 23, 2004 16:56 by Roughan Mac Namara - Focus Ireland rmcnamara at focusireland dot ie 9-12 High Street, Dublin 8 01 8815 900
ACTOR CILLIAN MURPHY HELPS LAUNCH MAJOR PUBLIC AWARENESS CAMPAIGN FOR FOCUS IRELAND TO HIGHLIGHT THE GROWING PROBLEM OF HOMELESSNESS
· Research shows 85% of pubic believe the problem has got much worse in last 10 years and 78% think not enough is done to help people who are homeless.
Actor Cillian Murphy today (Monday 23rd Feb) helped launch a major public awareness campaign for the charity Focus Ireland to highlight the growing problem of homelessness and social housing crisis in Ireland. Latest figures show record totals of at least 5,581 (2002) people homeless while there’s 48,413 households (Aprox 140, 000 people) on the housing waiting lists without a proper place to call home
The awareness campaign uses an innovative twist on the concept of tourism plaques marking where famous people once lived by using the names of homeless people instead and showing examples of places they lived on the street. The campaign - devised by Chemistry Advertising - will feature billboards, press adverts and over 100 replica plaques will be put up for a short period over the coming week.
Speaking at the launch Cillian – Star of movies Intermission and Cold mountain - said: “Homelessness has a terrible impact on people’s lives and more urgent action needs to be taken to tackle the problem effectively. I hope this campaign by Focus Ireland helps the public and politicians to see more needs to be done.” The Cork born actor was joined at the launch by Des Hirsch who was homeless and living in his car last year after losing his job and house due to illness. Des has since secured a home with the help of Focus and also got a job when an article he featured in was spotted by an old friend.
Des said: “The Government clearly isn’t doing enough to solve homelessness and people in need are on their own as far as their concerned. I have four children, I had a home, worked in business and benefited from a good education. Ill health resulted in me losing my job and my home and I’m one of the lucky ones as things have worked out for me but my case shows what can be done when the right services and support are in place.”
He added: “I hope this campaign helps make people realise anyone can become homeless and we need more support and housing available to stop this from happening.” Focus Ireland is disappointed to note that Ireland is still one of the few countries in Europe without a right to housing either in legislation or in the Constitution. This is despite the record totals of people homeless and on the housing waiting lists. Focus is running a Right To A Home campaign urging people to log on to www.focusireland.org read our demands letter, key in their local constituency and send it to all their local TDs asking them what they’re doing about the issues. Over 4,000 e-mails have been so far sent to TDs nationwide. In direct response to the campaign the Government has insisted it’s bringing about positive change in housing provision. Focus Ireland welcomes the fact there have been some improvements in the standard of some emergency accommodation and a fall in numbers sleeping rough but maintains more needs to be done as the overall figures are still worse than ever.
Homelessness shot up 9% from 1999 to 2002 and the housing lists rocketed 24% over the same time. Meanwhile in the last Budget there was a staggering 60 million in social welfare cuts. The Government also recently made changes to the rent allowance system including making it no longer available to anyone renting for under 6 months. Orla Barry of Focus Ireland said: “These policies don’t represent “positive change” and will act to force more people into homelessness. The recent cuts in the rent allowance system in particular have already made it even harder for the most vulnerable in our society to keep a roof over their heads. “
Focus Ireland has called for the Government to reverse these regressive policies and borrow €1 billion to increase social housing provision to 7,000 units a year at the very least. A recent Focus Ireland survey found 63% of the public blame the Government for homelessness and 77% want housing provided for people who are homeless regardless of cost. Focus Ireland believes it’s time our politicians starting listening to the public for once.