Some children born into homelessness in Ireland are unable to crawl or walk, due to a lack of space, and cannot chew food properly because of a lack of proper kitchen facilities, Social Justice Ireland has warned.
The independent think thank and justice advocacy organisation insists that the Government's action plan for housing and homelessness, Rebuilding Ireland, is simply not working.
It pointed out that since the introduction of Rebuilding Ireland in 2016, homelessness has increased by 59% overall, while family homelessness has increased by 55%.
"Homelessness is becoming normalised in our society. For families accessing emergency accommodation, 45% have being doing so for over a year, with 15% in the system for two or more years.
"The very fact that Focus Ireland and the INTO jointly published a resource for primary schools to aid them in supporting homeless children earlier this year shows just how pervasive our homelessness crisis has become," the organisation said.
It noted that children born into, or at risk of, homelessness are now presenting to services unable to crawl, walk or chew.
"Time lost in the first five years of a child's development is not easily recovered. It requires wraparound supports, including physical and speech therapies, counselling services and dietitians.
"The societal cost of homelessness is, as yet, unknown. However it is quite certain that the social and economic impact of homelessness will be with these children and their families throughout their lives," it said.
The organisation insisted that the national housing policy is "not working for anyone" and that it is "defined by privatisation and financialisation".
"The direction of social housing, supported by Rebuilding Ireland, is towards privatisation and profit and away from the provision of basic necessities for those who need it - private operators of emergency accommodation, private landlords receiving increasing amounts of rent subsidies for ‘social housing solutions', private developers building on State lands, short-term high-cost lettings, and private property owners hoping to maximise a profit," it said.
It is calling for the implementation of a number of policies to tackle the housing and homelessness crisis, including:
-Designing a more equitable housing system
-Investing in homelessness prevention
-Limiting the time a family should spend in emergency accommodation
-Increasing the construction of social housing
-Ensuring that rent caps are enforced and that rent inspections are adequate
-Obliging owners of vacant properties to put them to use.
"Rebuilding Ireland is not working. It is time to reimagine Ireland in order to rebuild it for everyone. We need to focus on what we value and to design policies and housing that align with that. Home must be at the core of what we value," the organisation added.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.