Dublin protest draws attention to worsening homeless crisis

Hundreds of people took part in a protest in Dublin city centre last night against the governments inaction on the growing problem of homelessness.

The number of homeless people in emergency accommodation has risen steadily in the past year and homeless charities feel the state is not doing enough to help.

Mike Allen, who is the Director of Advocacy with Focus Ireland, says the Government’s refusal to raise rent supplements is contributing to the problem.

“You either stop the landlords demanding that, which they have refused to do, or you give people the money otherwise you are simply failing them.

“The willingness of the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste just to look at the scale of the family homelessness problem that is emerging in this country and the consequences for those children and refusing to take action is just shocking and horrific.”

This morning InTallaght contacted Dublin City Council to find out how many people are currently sleeping rough in Dublin. Here is their response:

“A considerable number of media questions have been raised about the number of people rough sleeping in the Dublin region. The Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) will confirm the detail from the official winter count next week on Thursday, December 10th 2015. Dublin’s 2015 winter rough sleeper count was conducted successfully across the region beginning on the night of 30th November and finishing at 6.00am on 1st December 2015.

The DRHE conducts an official count on the number of individuals sleeping rough across the Dublin Region on a single night in April and November, and has done so each year since 2007. Each count follows the same methodology to identify the number of persons sleeping rough in the region. Over 140 personnel were engaged in traversing pre-identified routes across the city and county environs to enumerate and confirm the extent of actual persons bedded down and sleeping rough, as well as gathering evidence of rough sleeping and engaging with persons out-of-home who otherwise sleep rough.

The collation and verification of the data is now underway (December 2nd 2015). This requires the DRHE cross-check the data records of the PASS client management system and also meets formally with all relevant service providers across the region to cross-reference information on all persons included in the count. It is important that DRHE emphasises the need for a robust verification process so as to ensure the integrity of the count as one specific measure of the prevalence of rough sleeping in the region. For clarity, it is not possible to undertake the level of rigour required in a matter of days or hours. The priority focus at this stage is to identify and target persons discovered sleeping rough for a dedicated service response from Housing First/ Outreach, Emergency Accommodation and Health services.

The full and finalised details of the count, including specified service responses, will be presented to the Dublin Joint Homeless Consultative Forum meeting on December 10th for consideration and adoption. The details will be disseminated publicly immediately thereafter.”

The latest report from the Dublin local authority and state funded service response to address homelessness and rough sleeping in the Dublin region from July to September (Quarter 3) 2015 was published yesterday. It also includes recent responses put in place through the operation of the Cold Weather Initiative (CWI). You can read the report below:

“The Dublin Region Homeless Executive works as a shared service on behalf of the four Dublin local authorities, with Dublin City Council as the lead. It works collaboratively with statutory and state funded voluntary services to respond to homelessness. The CWI is in place to provide a humanitarian response to persons, who are at risk of rough sleeping, with the aim of preventing fatalities and/or serious harm from cold weather temperatures.

MOVING TO TENANCIES AND OUT OF HOMELESS SERVICES

From Q1 to Q3 January to September, 739 adults moved to tenancies, this is 194 extra adults when compared to the same period last year.

260 adult individuals moved out of homelessness in Q3 into tenancies, this is the highest move on rate to tenancies in a quarter reported to date. This represents a 36% increase in move on from homelessness to independent living, as a direct result of work by the Dublin local authorities in sourcing and allocating social housing to homeless households.

It must be noted that the social housing stock in the region is finite and the high rate of move-on to this type of tenancy that has characterised 2015, will be difficult to sustain into 2016.

500 modular housing units confirmed to be delivered in the Dublin region in 2016, to provide temporary accommodation for families who are currently in commercial hotels. An initial 22 units will be delivered before end 2015 in the Dublin City Council administrative area through an Accelerated Restricted Procedure (ARP) to provide homes, in recognition of the extreme urgency to respond to family homelessness in the Dublin region.

71 households have moved to independent private tenancies through the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Pilot, a key mechanism that has been put in place to address longer-term accommodation options for adult individuals and families.

It is expected that the number of households moving to private rented accommodation will increase going forward. In addition, the Dublin Place Finders unit, managed by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, continues to work at promoting the pilot HAP scheme among landlords in the region, with a view to building up a database of landlords who are interested in taking on tenants who have been approved under the pilot homeless HAP.

ACCESSING EMERGENCY ACCOMMODATION AND SUPPORTS

In excess of 2,100 adults accessed emergency accommodation each night across the Dublin region, an increase of 233 adults compared to April to June 2015 (Q2)

Of the 2,100 adults, 1,587 have support plans in place to assist with their access to appropriate services and move on options out of homelessness. This is an increase of 33 on the previous quarter.

Almost 1,300 child dependents were accommodated on a nightly basis

218 new families accessed emergency accommodation through the Dublin local authorities assessment and placement services from July to September 2015. This includes 70 new families in July, 78 were in contact in August with a further 70 in contact in September.

Local Authority Actions to Increase Emergency Accommodation and Onsite Support for Adult individuals and Families (including the Cold Weather Initiative)

100 emergency bed facility for 80 single men and 20 single women in Brú Aimsir, Dublin 8. Dublin City Council is working in partnership with Crosscare homeless services to deliver this important initiative. Additionally, the HSE is supporting the primary health care needs of through SafetyNet, providing a range of services including GP consultations, vaccination and health screening. In addition light meals, laundry facilities, recreational services and support to engage with other relevant services will be provided.

75 ring fenced beds across all state-funded homeless services- this includes additional emergency accommodation in existing homeless services for the duration of the cold weather period.

20 single beds – if the temperature reaches zero degrees over three consecutive nights, the Civil Defence will provide additional emergency accommodation to assist homeless services

37 new family units – there are an additional number of family units in place including 12 units in Hazelwood House, Dublin 1 (onsite support provided by the Peter Mc Verry Trust) and 25 units in Ballymun Plaza, Dublin 9 (in reach support provided by Depaul Ireland)

18 new couples units –there are 18 new couples units in place on Sean Mc Dermott Street for couples who have been entrenched in rough sleeping in addition to couples that were accessing emergency accommodation on a singles basis. This accommodation forms part of the CWI but also is provided long-term tenancies to couples (onsite support provided by Sophia Housing).

80 additional family rooms are now in place to provide emergency accommodation for households, who are currently accommodated in commercial hotels. This service will also have onsite professional key-working services to support families in relation to finding long-term accommodation and to address any other concerns they may have.

25 New Homeless Action Team Staff Members – With the levels of families presenting to homeless services remaining such a daily challenge, the rate of support planning has decreased in large part due the logistical difficulty of accessing families as they were disbursed throughout the region in commercial hotels. The local authorities are working to respond to this through increasing the Focus Ireland staff resource for the family Homeless Action Team (HAT) to 25 to improve and speed up the support planning function for families.

Improving progression options for persons – a strong emphasis is being put on improving progression options for persons; by converting a sizeable number of existing one night only beds into supported accommodation options as well as increasing capacity for the CWI target group specifically Cedar House, Crosscare and Grantham Mews, Peter Mc Verry Trust.

PREVENTING HOMELESSNESS

The Tenancy Protection Service (TPS) continues to operate as a key mechanism deferring households from accessing homeless services. The number of households contacting the TPS free-phone number has increased to 6,792, since it began operation in June 2014.

Of these 3,233, or 48%, were considered to be at risk of losing their tenancy. Threshold, who operates the service on behalf of the four Dublin local authorities, has worked with 1,346 of these households to effectively protect their tenancies.

The majority of these cases were approved for an uplift in their Rent Supplement rate under the Department of Social Protection (DSP) Protocol (1,179 households) while a lesser number retained tenancies following negotiations with landlords on behalf of tenants (104). The remaining (63 households) were supported to source alternative tenancies in the private rented sector. Since operations began, only 20 of the households who contacted the TPS have accessed homeless services.

 

About Padraig Conlon

Padraig Conlon
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