Public asked to make properties available for homeless people

ireland
Public Asked To Make Properties Available For Homeless People
79 people died on Dublin’s streets last year. Photo: PA Images.
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Sarah Slater

A local authority is appealing to the public to make their properties available for homeless families and individuals, as 79 people died on Dublin’s streets last year.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) of the city council said it is seeking property in the Dublin area.

There is a crisis in seeking private emergency accommodation, deputy chief executive of DRHE Brendan Kenny said.

“Suddenly Covid really, really worsened that crisis. We actually emptied some of the hostels in the city, totally,” he said.

Our only option was to go out and source accommodation in the private sector

“We had to thin out most of the hostels for social distancing purposes and had to very quickly acquire hostels in the city, otherwise more people would be dying on the streets and more people will be sleeping on the streets.

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“We’ve managed to only have three deaths from Covid. Our only option was to go out and source accommodation in the private sector”.

Death toll

Independent councillor and chief executive officer of Inner City Helping Homeless Anthony Flynn said that figures he obtained confirm that a total of 79 homeless people died in Dublin through 2020.

The figure compares to 49 deaths in 2019, 47 in 2018 and 62 deaths in 2017.

“These figures are related to Dublin only. It’s now time the Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien requested a full countrywide report,” said Cllr Flynn.

Former lord mayor Christy Burke said he welcomed the call for landlords and property owners to make them available to those hit by homelessness, but he “worries about supply issues given rising rent in the private sector.”

“However, there doesn’t seem to be the political will to solve this awful issue. These are people’s lives not just statistics,” he said.

Sourcing difficulties

A DRHE spokesperson said the local authority was interested in speaking to landlords and property owners about properties that can be used as family hubs or hostels for single persons.

“A property team in the DRHE are tasked with sourcing new emergency accommodation throughout Dublin city and region,” they continued.

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“This can be difficult in light of the strong opposition that almost inevitably arises from local residents and businesses to the implementation of such facilities. We are regularly in contact with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage regarding funding for acquiring new properties.”

We fully accept that there are still far too many families in emergency accommodation

From the beginning of 2020, national data has shown a significant reduction in the number of people, in particular families, that are residing in emergency accommodation throughout the country.

At the end of December 2020, there were 755 families in emergency accommodation. This is the lowest monthly figure since December 2015. The figure represents a total decrease of 446 families since the start of 2020 when there were 1,201 families in emergency accommodation.

“While the reduction in numbers is of course very welcome, we fully accept that there are still far too many families in emergency accommodation, including hotels, and we are very conscious of the challenge that still exists on family homelessness in the Dublin area,” the DRHE spokesperson added.

“We acknowledge that a key part in addressing homelessness is the delivery of new social housing and along with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage we are committed to social homes being delivered through build, acquisition and leasing programmes.”

Policy changes

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The Council and HSE have initiated a joint review on all aspects of how emergency accommodation facilities are operated on behalf of the DRHE in the city, and a comparison of day-to-day management operations between the NGOs and private operators.

Cllr Flynn says there is a need for policy changes in the DRHE, with its local connection policy meaning those who do not have a “habitual connect” to an area must sleep rough.

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“In light of the recent increase in deaths amongst the homeless community the Council should lift this restriction as it will help to save lives,” he said.

“Those who are rough sleeping should not be forced to return to a county of their origin in light of Covid-19 concerns and if where they are from is unable to provide homeless services.

“Beds should be made available to all who are sleeping rough in the city. There has been an excessive number of deaths and it’s imperative that the Council uses all of its resources to ensure that every action is taken immediately to prevent further loss of life in 2021”.

An emergency motion was placed before the council’s December meeting asking for them to immediately suspend habitual or local connection policy of the DRHE, however, the local authority said the policy could only be changed by the Minister for Housing or his Department.

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