The Government vowed to end the Homelessness crisis in Ireland in wake of the death of the homeless man outside the Dáil, but have they followed up on their plans now that the media coverage has died down, post-Christmas?
The homelessness crisis was brought to the attention of the public when Jonathan Corrie, a homeless man, passed away in freezing temperatures last month close to the entrance of Dáil Éireann on Molesworth Street. This death was the wakeup call that the Government needed to finally tackle the crisis.
The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Alan Kelly, recently confirmed that the 271 new emergency beds provided in Dublin exceeded the 260-bed target set by his department’s 20-Point Plan to tackle the emergency short-term homelessness.
While this proves that short term action is most definitely being implemented, it is far too soon to judge if long-term plans will follow.
Minister Alan Kelly and Minister of State, Paudie Coffey, announced details of the Government’s 20-point Action Plan on December 9th, during a visit to the Dublin Region Homeless Executive’s “one-stop-shop” advice facility in Parkgate Street, Dublin.
The plan commits to €20 million in expenditure and included the immediate provision of 260 additional emergency beds to facilitate people sleeping rough in Dublin, a Nite Café to provide a contact point for homeless people who do not wish to be placed in emergency accommodation and the provision of transport to emergency accommodation for the homeless.
During the announcement Minister Kelly said:
“I made a commitment that every homeless person in Dublin who needs a bed or emergency accommodation will have one before Christmas, but, if they choose otherwise, the new Nite Café will be available to them. This Plan delivers on that commitment.”
“Our long term ambition is that by the end of 2016 we will end the scourge of involuntary long term homelessness, in accordance with the Government’s Implementation Plan in Response to Homelessness.”
Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for the Simon Community released a response to this announcement, highlighting the fact that concrete long-term measures must be taken to ensure homeless people in emergency accommodation do not return to living on the streets.
“It is essential that we do not lose sight of the ultimate goal which is to ensure that people who are homeless have access to long term homes with the right support. This is the commitment that the Government has already given to end long-term homelessness and rough sleeping by 2016, said Randall.
“Many of the measures announced should be time limited and clearly outlined as temporary measures to deal with the homeless emergency. These emergency beds must then be replaced by an offer of housing and not a return to the streets.
“The last thing we need are greater numbers of people trapped long term in emergency accommodation with no opportunity to move on to homes where they can begin to leave homelessness behind,” she continued.
Focus Ireland share a similar view on the matter. Adrian Quinn of Focus Ireland is Project Leader on the Housing Intake Tam which works to get people sleeping rough off the street and into emergency accommodation.
“It’s vital that there is sufficient emergency accommodation so that no one should have to sleep rough for lack of a bed. However, the long-term answer is not just more emergency beds. People need homes so they can move on from being homeless.
“If these homes are not provided the mistakes of the past will be repeated where people get trapped living long-term in emergency homeless accommodation where it is much harder for them to overcome the difficulties they may have in areas such as mental health, addiction and long-term unemployment,” said Quinn.
Dublin City Council refused to comment on whether sufficient progress is being made to get homeless people into long-term housing.
Campus.ie spoke to a homeless man, who wished to simply go by Joe, on the streets of Dublin over the weekend.
He stated that while the government have opened up three new facilities with beds, there are more issues that are often overlooked, including housing for people outside of Dublin and daytime facilities.
“There’s at least three new places with beds open since Christmas but it’s being out during the day with nowhere to go, they should have more places. It’s no use not being able to stay in your hostel.”
“I’m from Cork, they won’t recognize me on the Council. They don’t pay me up here, they won’t give me permanent accommodation up here [in Dublin]. When I ring them about my payments, they’re just telling me I have to go back to where I came from.”
When asked about what he would like to see the Government make as their priority regarding homelessness he said:
“Just leaving the hostels opening, letting the people stay during the day, some places where they can go in and out during the day. That’s just the big issue.”
Homelessness is a complex issue. People can become homeless for many reasons including, family breakdowns, social exclusion, mental health issues, drug or alcohol misuse, difficulties with sexual orientation or poor physical health.
Structural reasons also often lead to homelessness due to low income, rent or mortgage payments, debt and unemployment.
There are up to 5000 people who are homeless in Ireland at any given time. The majority of this figure are in homeless emergency accommodation.
However, a few hundred are sleeping rough night after night. People enter and leave homelessness every day and as a result, the number of people who have experienced homelessness in one year is never a static figure.