The former B & B in St Lawrence Road, Clontarf, Dublin 3 purchased by Dublin City Council last December to remodel as a family hub for 13 families
Millions have been spent on one house to cater for emergency accommodation.
So why does it resemble a building site?
A St Lawrence Road Resident writes:
On December 16, 2016, a B&B on St Lawrence Road, Clontarf, Dublin 3 was purchased for the Homeless Executive of Dublin City Council.
The transaction was rushed. No survey was done. Neither Councillors nor St. Lawrence Road residents were consulted. Planning Permission was not sought.
All because the Homeless Executive was determined to respond – swiftly and decisively – to Minister Simon Coveney’s directive about moving families out of hotels and B&Bs.
However, transformation of the houses into a “Family Hub” – only began in mid-April 2017.
Admittedly, since then the pace of work has been relentless. Builders and sub-contractors have laboured to adapt the houses to suit the needs of 13 families.
But work has been disrupted by the discovery of numerous, serious defects.
Residents warnings – that Victorian, terraced houses are, structurally and environmentally, unsuitable for Family Hub use – had been ignored by DCC.
With an unlimited budget and no accountability to elected representative, officials have discovered, the “hard way”, that such warnings were fully justified….
…which brings us to this picture (above) taken on September 10 – nine months after the purchase of the houses. €3 million – allocated to helping the homeless – has been squandered on the effective destruction of two houses, in an area zoned for preservation.
Not one homeless family has been sheltered. €3 million could have bought ten semidetached homes, or fifteen apartments, ready for immediate occupation. But those in charge of public money are not very practical, or competent.
So, the Homelessness Crisis will be with us for a very long time.
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy at the launch of 63-house build in Carlow last month
On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
RTÉ’s Education Correspondent Emma O’Kelly spoke to a homeless family who is living in a hotel.
One person Ms O’Kelly spoke to from the family was a young female student.
The girl told Ms O’Kelly:
“Definitely, the past year, it’s been a very huge eye-opener. It’s a huge culture shock and a huge change to how it was for us.
“It’s hard to fit in and to find someone who will accept you and your troubles and, if you get to the stage where you can open up about this situation and the homeless, it’s still the sense will they still be your friend? Or will they find you scum?”
“It’s hard to pick the good people from the bad people and then finding it hard to come out to teachers you’ve never met before… It took me about five or 10 minutes there earlier on to say that I was homeless to my deputy principal. She kept saying to me, ‘take your time’, ‘take your time’ and I just couldn’t say it.
“I could barely say it to her when I did say it so it’s very hard.”
Asked what she would like for her and her family, she said:
“To get our home, to get our space back. Even if it’s, I don’t know, if it was just our privacy back, it’d be ten times better than what we have now because there is no privacy here.
“There’s no time, peaceful time.”
Asked what she would say to either a Government minister or the Taoiseach if she had the opportunity, she said:
“Give us our home, please. We need it. We need it as soon as possible.”
Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy spoke to Áine Lawlor during News At One.
From the interview…
Aine Lawlor: “You can’t give her a home, can you? Right now?”
Eoghan Murphy: “I think, Aine, the piece that was broadcast this morning, on Morning Ireland, which we just heard a clip from there, it’s probably one of the most important contributions to this debate that we’ve heard in the past number of months.
“We have a crisis in homelessness and we’ve known that for quite some time and we’re putting in a huge amount of effort and resources to try and help these families who are in this absolutely appalling situation.
“Now those people who’ve been working on the frontline, in a voluntary sector or in local authorities or with me in my department, to try and find these solutions, they’ve heard these stories. I’ve had the opportunity myself to meet with some of these families.
“But the bravery they had this morning to come out and tell the country about their particular circumstances, I think was very brave but very important that people understand what these families are facing because…”
Lawlor: “The problem is not understanding, Minister. The problem is we have a bright, capable young woman living in these circumstances, who believes other people see her as scum because Government can’t deliver on housing and we have, you know, you can say we’re making all kinds of improvements, but are you not just drowning a little bit more slowly, is that not the case?”
Murphy: “With respect Aine, I don’t think everyone does understand what these families are going through, who are living in hotels, and who are going to school, their first day back and actually said, coming out to her deputy principal about the difficult circumstances she is facing, because the amount of feedback is generated already this morning, into the department.”
“We have a particular problem here that has been growing over the course of the year, as more and more families have presented with homelessness. ”
Lawlor: “It’s up by 30% in one year. No matter what you do, the problem seems to be getting worse, not better.”
Murphy: “Well, thankfully, we’ve been able to put in resources to at least make sure they’re not out rough on the streets, we’re able to put them into hotels and put the wraparound services around those hotels. What we’re trying to do is move these families then into permanent sustainable, long-term accommodation. So, if you look at the 12 months, up until the end of May, 1,200 families were removed from hotels, or prevented from entering them. At the end of May though, we still had 650 families still in hotels.
“We have a pathway for those families out of those hotels into social housing homes, into the private rental sector and into hubs.
“But people continue to present and that’s the purpose, I suppose of the summit that was organised over the summer, is to bring the local authorities together, to make sure we are going to be able to deal with this problem.”
Murphy: “We have build more social housing homes and we’re doing that. And at the moment, I’m in negotiations with Paschal Donoghue about how we’re going to, hopefully, scale up our ambition in that regard but there’s not much I can say about that at the moment because we’re at that sensitive stage of those negotiations but in a few weeks time I’ll be announcing my review of Rebuilding Ireland which is a plan which is working. But to see how we can improve it.”
Murphy: “Earlier this summer, when I talked about enhanced CPO [Compulsory Purchase Orders] powers, another broadcaster compared me to Adolf Hitler. I mean we have a crisis here, we need to look at things that maybe we haven’t looked at before to make sure we can properly house families like those that were on the radio this morning.”
Murphy: “There are a lot of vested interests in this area. If I was to start flagging things to you now, that we’re going to do in the next three or four weeks, they would rally against, potentially try and stop the things that we want to do so I have to be careful…”
Jack during a shoot for ‘A Beautiful Day In Dublin’ homeless project; Justin Casey
On Thursday morning, in Suffolk Street, Dublin 1, former chef ‘Jack’ Howlett-Watson, who had been sleeping rough in the Superdry shopfront, was found unconscious and later pronounced dead at St James’s Hospital.
That evening, a 26-yearold woman was found dead in the hotel room she shared with her two children, in Leixlip, County Kildare.
Justin Casey was a team leader during the occupation of Apollo House by homlesssness activists last Christmas.
Today we are faced with a daunting reality subjective to the current housing crisis to which our country is submersed.
With figures of families and individuals caught within the social stigma of homelessness constantly on the rise it saddens me to witness that it takes the loss of life in order to bring the crisis to the forefront of the public, media and government alike.
Recent reports provided by Focus Ireland have highlighted that in July alone, over 99 families have become homeless for the first time. With over 8,000 individuals accessing homeless services and emergency accommodation at present it seems that nothing is being done to help prevent the increase of people in Ireland being left without a home.
This week within 24 hours a man and a woman have lost their live in two separate incidents. Both of whom had been accessing homeless services.
It is with a heavy heart I write this as personally through the Apollo house initiative during the winter months leading up to Christmas 2016 I had the honour of meeting and getting to know Jack.
His death is gradually becoming the driving force among members of the community to speak out and stand up for those failed by the system.
With certain media outlets headlining the story ‘’Rough Sleeper dies in Dublin’’ we are left with the callous ideology that a man is to be defined by his situation.
I am outraged by the social acceptance to portraying such a horrendous concept and feel strongly that in both life and death that all individuals should be defined by character alone and not the circumstances to which they are bound.
I first met Jack when he walked into Apollo house. I was volunteering as support team leader.
In my opinion Jack was a very educated and proud individual. He held his head high and was not put off by the daily issues which would get the better of most faced with similar circumstances.
He had a strong handshake and a heart of gold, always first up to make a cup of tea for new residents entering Apollo House.
Jack made an Impact which the staff could not, as when a new resident came into Apollo he would offer to show them around and instantly this would help to neutralise any reservations or worries they may have as he was a resident and not approaching from a ‘staff’ prospective.
You could always find Jack in the kitchen where he found his sense of purpose, and rightly so as he possessed extensive culinary skills.
In terms of his personal life Jack was a very reserved man. In my personal opinion, I suspect this was as a result of constantly being bounced from pillar to post, as having to introduce yourself each time you avail of a new homeless service is very discouraging.
Each one making the same promises as the last but seldom ever delivered.
In my experience refraining from opening up about your personal life can be a very effective defence mechanism to restrict personal connections in the hope of minimising any emotional aspects or damage.
Nevertheless Jack displayed an amazing sense of determination and strength as he progressed in a manner that would inspire each and every one of us. While faced with what seemed an overwhelming situation, the true beauty of his character still prevailed.
I just hope that his passing may not be in vain and that it sparks an immediate call of positive and prominent change in both the system and the light in which those caught in the system are viewed.
Justin Casey is a former rough sleeper and homelessness activist.
From left: Jimmy McGovern (USI), Eugene O’Flaherty (NUIG SU Mature Students’ Officer), Megan Reilly (NUIG SU VP/Welfare Officer), Karina Timothy (Threshold), Andrew Forde (NUIG SU VP/Education Officer), Lorcán O’Maoileannaigh (NUIG SU President)
Prospect Hill, Galway
Joanna Brophy writes:
With students returning to college this week NUI Galway Students’ Union has launched their free rent book and accommodation guide for students along with an appeal to anyone with a spare room to consider renting it to NUI Galway students.
Under the Rent a Room Scheme you can earn up to €14,000 per annum tax free by renting a
Rooms for rent can be advertised for free on the University’s accommodation website (at link below),
It offers students tips and advice on how to ensure they find accommodation that suits their needs. The guide also offers advice on how to maintain good relationships with your landlord, your housemates and your neighbours.
The guide contains a free 10 page rent book and is available from the Students’ Union Office and website.
Darren and Christopher Doyle hold the eviction notice they received from Phoenix Park authorities last weekend
Claire Scott, on Dublin Live, reports:
“Homeless men have spoken out after their tents and belongings were taken by Phoenix Park authorities.
….The two men, Darren Doyle, 35, and Christopher Doyle, 28, were among an estimated 10-15 people who were issued eviction notices and were told to leave and remove their tents ‘as soon as possible’.”
….On Tuesday, they returned to the park to find their belongings and tents were removed despite the fact that they had left a note on cardboard in the door of the family sized tent explaining that they would be back to collect their items.”
In today’s Irish Times Fr Peter McVerry takes the Taoiseach to task for implying that homelessness does not exist, that what we call homelessness is really only a kind of aspiration for better homes. That those who complain of homelessness are really saying that they’d like nicer places to live.
Here’s the quote from the Taoiseach that Peter McVerry angrily takes issue with:
“There are 90,000 people on the housing list but very many, if not most, have houses and apartments. However, these are houses and apartments that are being provided to them through rent supplement or the private rental sector and they want different houses or apartments that are more appropriate to their needs.
It is important to recall that, of those 90,000 on the housing list, the majority are in houses or apartments, just not the permanent homes they would like to have and which we would like them to have.” [Leader’s Questions, July 12, 2017]
So, according to the Taoiseach, the homeless have houses and apartments, but they are simply being fussy and want better ones.
And since he is the Taoiseach, and leader of the free world as we understand it here in this soggy corner of Europe, the Homeless Crisis has now been officially downgraded to the much more manageable Fussiness Crisis.
A crisis where taste is not, unfortunately, being matched by reality. Something a good bucket of paint and a joss-stick might solve. A problem that a simple shift in mental attitude might dispel.
Fr Peter McVerry’s article produces enough hard evidence and figures to show, just in case anyone was in any doubt, that we really do have a homeless crisis and not just a “Fussiness Crisis” as the Taoiseach appears to be suggesting.
The article includes a graphic incorporating figures from the central statistics office that clearly show there are 6,906 homeless people in Ireland, 73% of them in Dublin. According to the Taoiseach, and this now exists in the Dail records, “very many of these, if not most, have houses and apartments.”
Where I come from, this is called a bare-faced lie. But I come from a relatively humble working-class background and I’m maybe not sophisticated enough to tell the difference between a bare-faced lie and some complex housing/social policy thingy that someone like me might not be fully capable of grasping.
The Taoiseach’s suggestion that there is no homelessness also implies that rough-sleepers and kids living on fast food and crisps in hotel accommodations, as reported in the Irish Times yesterday, are only figments of the collective imagination, like some kind of mass delusionary experience.
The idea also appears to suggest that the work Fr Peter McVerry and people of his ilk have been doing all these years, against increasingly ambivalent odds, is also delusional in its assessment of the problems they are addressing every working day of their lives, and the political policies that appear to be creating these problems.
There was an old joke in working class Dublin to describe tough neighbourhoods. You’d say “They ate their young in that place!” This came to mind when I noticed yesterday’s census reports that 1 in 4 homeless people are under the age of 18, and that the largest homeless age group was children under 4 years of age.
People may soon be saying of Ireland. “Sure, they ate their young in that place.”
Homeless charity Safety Net has launched a petition on Uplift calling for the removal of prescription charges for homeless people.
Safety Net writes:
Homeless people suffer more ill health than the housed population and therefore have a higher need for prescription medication.
Many homeless people cannot afford the €2.50 prescription charge payable on every item.
Homeless health services repeatedly come across homeless patients who cannot afford their medication and so may not complete a course of antibiotics or take heparin for a clot. They often end up in hospital because of this.
Homeless people are registered with local authorities and therefore it is possible to identify individuals so they are exempt from this charge.