Thursday, 18 February 2021
Covid-19 (Drug and Alcohol Services, and Homelessness): Statements
Richard O'Donoghue (Limerick County, Independent)
I will share time with Deputy Michael Collins. There are many types of front-line workers and I draw attention to those front-line workers in the homelessness sector, where in many cases they work in a voluntary capacity. They are among the front-line worker heroes so I acknowledge and thank them for the work they do. This work is challenging at the best of times but especially now in times of Covid-19.
In Limerick we are very fortunate to have several voluntary organisations helping the homeless. For example, there is the Simon Communities, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Novas, which has been with us in Limerick since 2002. It also works in Clare, Tipperary, Kerry and Cork, and its goal is to bring humanity to this work. Everybody is entitled to a home.
Today, on 18 February 2021, more than 250 people are homeless in Limerick, of which approximately 150 are children. Those numbers are reflected throughout the country. Homelessness affects all strands of society and a commitment should be made to single persons, who amount to over 50% of people on the waiting list. Will the Government commit to delivering on its promise of 9,500 new social housing units in 2021? Targets can grab headlines but the reality is different. In January 2020, the Fianna Fáil leader and current Taoiseach, Deputy Micheál Martin, promised 100,000 social houses in five years of government. He is now the leader of the Government and has rowed back on the commitment of 20,000 homes per year to less than half that target, if that. If he is honest, it will not be met and we will come nowhere near it.
Isolation and boredom has really driven problems with gambling. In rural areas gardaí have witnessed a massive increase in drug-driving, which demonstrates our problems in targeting drugs. This is not just about young people as it concerns all ages. People are prosecuted for drug offences, including supply, and great work is done by the Criminal Assets Bureau. All the recovered money should go back to front-line services, including gardaí, to protect the next generation.