By Kieran O’Mahony
SEVERAL Sinn Féin councillors, including West Cork Cllr Paul Hayes, took part in a sleep-out last Friday outside Cork County Hall.
Their aim was to highlight what they believe is the government’s inaction on the homelessness and housing crisis.
The five councillors – which included Pat Buckley, Dessie O’Grady and Donnchadh Ó’Laoghaire – slept outside from 6pm on Friday evening until 6am on Saturday morning. They were overwhelmed by the generosity and solidarity of some families, who themselves are facing homelessness due to rising rents and they bought them refreshments and spoke with them.
‘The purpose of the sleep-out was two-fold. We were collecting money for homeless charities, but also trying to highlight the government’s inaction on a crisis that has reached the level of a national emergency,’ said Cllr Hayes, speaking to The Southern Star.
‘In Co Cork we have over 7,000 people and their dependents on the housing list, with 2,107 in West Cork alone. Rents across the State have gone up 35% since 2011, outstripping rates seen during the Celtic Tiger era. The Simon Community has expressed their bitter disappointment with Budget 2016 and the paltry capital funding for social housing contained in the budget shows the government are completely deluded about the scale of the crisis.’
Cllr Hayes pointed out that locally Sinn Féin will be proposing a substantial increase in Cork County Council’s Homelessness Services Contribution.
‘The €299,166 allocated last year was far from the required level,’ added Cllr Hayes.
The issue of homelessness was also highlighted at a Western Committee meeting this week where councillors were informed that the Council is working to tackle the problem.
‘In the current climate we have two types of homelessness, the traditional type and then those that are losing their homes due to mortgages arrears or landlords selling the property,’ said Paul Sutton, senior executive officer at the Housing Dept.
‘Homelessness is tackled regionally here and a strategic group has been set up and housing the homeless is a priority,’ he pledged.