Almost half the homeless families currently living in hotels in Dublin are to be moved to nine “family hub” emergency accommodation centres across the city and county.
The facilities, which have been leased by Dublin City Council for five years, will cater for approximately 380 families…
Just one of the hubs is a former hotel, Lynam’s Hotel on O’Connell Street, with the remaining eight including buildings owned by religious institutions, large family houses, and former industrial premises.
More than 1,000 families are currently in emergency accommodation and 815 of those are living in hotels. Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has set a deadline of July 1st to end the use of commercial hotels for homeless families.
New official figures published today show that the number of rough sleepers in the Dublin region is 35% up on the same period last year.
There were 138 people sleeping rough in the Dublin region during this year’s spring count – the highest ever recorded for this time of year.
It is also only slightly down on the last winter count, despite 210 new hostel beds being provided since then.
The figures also do not include a group of 23 Romanians found sleeping rough in Dublin city centre on the night of the count, 4 April…The figures also do not include 57 sleeping on the floor of the all-night Merchants Quay cafe.
Anthony Flynn, of Inner City Homelessness, released the following statement:
“We have over 40 people bedded down at present here and it is still very early. This situation has been at peak level for a number of nights but this is the worst I have ever seen it. Homelessness, homeless services are in turmoil.”
“Our coordinator has diverted outreach support teams from other locations to deal with the influx in this particular area and our resources are being severely drained. At present, a 27% increase in presentations across the city is what we are dealing with. Our committed and dedicated volunteers are trying to make everyone as comfortable as possible. We need accommodation and urgently.”
“This has been ongoing for five nights now with no Government or State-funded body intervention. A meeting will be held at 9am in order to try and alleviate the problem to some extent, but unfortunately enough is just not being done. We are doing our best in a voluntary capacity.”
“I am calling on the Minister tonight to come and look at this and tell me to my face that Government are doing all they can. This is just unacceptable. The homeless tsunami has hit us and this is like something from I’ve never encountered before.”
From top: A family fun event held outside the Mountjoy Street eviction in February 2016; Rosi Leonard outside Apollo House earlier this year
TV3 broadcast Inside Apollo House, a documentary about the occupation of Apollo House in Dublin by activists, artists, trade unions – to offer shelter to homeless people.
Further to this…
Rosi Leonard, of Home Sweet Home and the Irish Housing Network, writes:
The 750 people who crossed the threshold of Apollo to volunteer their time serve as a testament to the power of self-organising against the housing crisis. The networks, connections and communities that made it possible did not spring up overnight; they mostly born from direct experiences of homelessness and austerity.
Many community-led housing support groups have been running over the past years, spaces where people can get advice on their rights and what services are available to them. North Dublin Bay Housing Crisis Committee, Dublin Central Housing Action, Dublin Tenants Association, Wexford Housing Action, Housing Action Kildare and Dublin 8 Housing Action are just a few of the groups who have run support groups of this kind.
It has often been from these support groups that direct action has come, as through this form of support people can, without fear, have their voices and concerns heard. It has been from these spaces that much of the grassroots resistance to the housing crisis has come from.
Numerous actions emerged from these support groups over the last 18 months. The issues that spurred people into action were the same: evictions without suitable alternatives, and the poor, unpredictable standard of accommodation.
This week marks the one-year anniversary of the largest Dublin based anti-eviction action in recent years when families resisted the closure of a privately-run emergency accommodation centre for 10 days.
The E13 families, as they called themselves, were a group of 13 families living in the emergency accommodation on Mountjoy Street. In February 2016, the owner of the building on Mountjoy Street informed Dublin City Council that he would be raising the rent on the property Dublin City Council were using to provide emergency accommodation.
Dublin City Council responded by informing residents the centre would shut in a week and that they would be moved to different hotels, many of which were even more cramped, and further away from their children’s schools and their home communities.
A major block to families in the hostel supporting each other was a lack of any communal facilities, children’s play areas and a ban enforced by management on residents being in each others room, even by invitation.
As the date of the hostel’s closure grew closer, the residents met outside and began to form the simple demand that would not leave Mountjoy Street without the guarantee of safe, suitable and secure accommodation.
One of the families was already linked in with North Dublin Bay’s support groups and reached out for support. Families door knocked the area with local residents who had been involved in the Bolt Hostel action, a formerly vacant DCC hostel re-opened by activists in 2015.
The Bolt as it became known, was open for three weeks before a court injunction forced activists to leave. But many of the groups involved stayed in contact through the Irish Housing Network and worked together to support the families in Mountjoy Street.
The campaign to support the families was visible with neighbours putting posters in their window and local groups, including the Grangegorman squat, holding family-fun days outside the property, with local businesses donating food.
“The support from the community was so important,” says Aisling Kenny, one the families who resisted the eviction. “It made me feel like I wasn’t just fighting my own fight.”
In the end, the families won their demand for more suitable accommodation, and many of these families are now in permanent council accommodation.
Over the summer of 2016, weekly sit-ins of Dublin City Council’s offices were common with families demanding more suitable and secure housing and winning victories on major issues that were affecting them daily in emergency accommodation.
Lack of cooking facilities or access to hotel restaurants is a major health risk to children and families in emergency accommodation. Families successfully fought to prove the food boxes council were providing were unfit for the dietary needs of a child and secured food vouchers through these meetings, as well as many people having their individual needs met.
State or charity support for people in housing difficulty can be irregular with unclear guidelines in place, a fact which can leave people incredibly vulnerable.
In July 2016, a family were evicted from the Regency Hotel after they reported the level of mould in their room was causing their children severe respiratory problems. So many homeless families were being accommodated in that hotel that it had its own key worker (a support worker usually appointed by homeless charities) appointed to it – a fact that is not uncommon in hotels around Dublin.
When the family were evicted, the key worker informed them he was no longer appointed to their case and they were left without information, support or a bed for the night.
In this case it was a link between other residents in the hotel and outside community support groups that enabled the family to get help and stage a sleep-out outside the hotel in protest of their treatment, as well as advocate with the family in Dublin City Council to secure alternative accommodation.
A similar case followed when Lynam’s Hotel based on O’Connell street went into receivership. NAMA and Grant Thornton, the receivers appointed to the building stated that it had to close and would be re-sold, again leaving homeless families who were living there in limbo.
As one resident recalls, support groups and collective action was the most effective way they could protect their families :
“I was told to find alternative accommodation by DCC due to refurbishments, later to be told the hotel was in receivership. I contacted the Irish Housing Network for guidance and support as there was none offered by DCC. We then decided to have a meeting with all the families currently at Lynam’s to discuss what options we had and what we could to do to find alternative accommodation.”
“After numerous meetings at Park Gate St homeless services and Dublin City Council the families decided action needed to be taken before we ended up on the streets with our children. We set a list of simple demands that included having facilities in our accommodation like cooking and laundry facilities.”
Pressure was applied to NAMA to use this hotel – not for more private development – but as opportunity to exercise its social responsibility clause and hand it over to the Government for the provision of housing.
Families staged a sit-in in Grant Thornton offices and a march to NAMA headquarters, and when the date to leave came, the receiver was offering deals between council and residents, rather than face a stand-off that would see him held responsible for the eviction of homeless families.
The stories above are just a glimpse of a struggle which almost every community in Ireland has witnessed.
There are many more examples such as the successful defence of a family evicted from Catherines’ Gate, Dublin 8 in December, 2015, who were evicted by private management when they were 20c short of making up a gas bill and assaulted when they complained.
Months later, people living in the Bru Hostel successfully resisted its closure on the grounds that the loss of 101 beds for homeless individuals, at a time when more and more people were being left with nowhere to go, would very likely result in deaths.
One of the women living in the Bru, and influential in keeping it open through a sit-in and march on Dublin City Council, Carrie Hennessey, would later be one of the key figures of the Apollo House occupation.
Many people who experienced the direct provision system and occupied a centre in Cork in 2010 in protest of the racist treatment and prison-like conditions they endured there also lent their support to Apollo House.
Dignity, empowerment and care were the messages constantly pushed by people living and volunteering inside Apollo.
Taken as both a process and a demand, they cut through the Government’s current attitude that the housing crisis is an administrative difficulty they inherited and are now struggling to resolve.
It is no mystery that a lack of tenants’ rights, social housing and community services are forcing families to sleep in their cars and people to sleep and die in doorways for lack of a home.
The more we can support and empower the voices of people affected by the crisis, the more we can build strong solidarity to ensure the suffering and abuse witnessed in previous years never happens again.
The Inner City Helping Homeless outreach team counted 76 rough sleepers in Dublin – 63 men and 13 women.
Meanwhile, this morning,Olivia Kelly in The Irish Times reports:
Modular homes, originally intended to provide short-term accommodation for homeless families living in hotels, are to be used as permanent housing for applicants on Dublin City Council’s housing waiting list.
The council in November announced plans to build modular or “stackable” apartments at two sites in the city. The 70 apartments are expected to cost €15 million.
The smaller of the two sites, a vacant plot on Fishamble Street near Christ Church Cathedral, will have four to eight apartments at a cost of €1.5 million to €1.8 million. This will be used to accommodate homeless families living in emergency accommodation.
However, the council has decided the second site, a €13.5 scheme of 62 apartments at Bunratty Road in Coolock, will be used to accommodate people on the council’s general housing waiting list. The list currently stands at some 20,000 applicants.
A person sleeps in a shop doorway on Grafton Street, Dublin on Wednesday night
Inner City Helping Homeless writes:
A report issued this morning by Inner City Helping Homeless Outreach Coordination stated that an “unprecedented” number of homeless individuals sleeping on Dublin’s streets last night were afraid to access homeless services.
And as little as 6 per cent of those engaged managed to enter accommodation after 11pm.
Up to 56 per cent refused to engage with emergency accommodation. A shocking 99 individuals presented as homeless last night with 85 males and 14 females – a 10 per cent increase on the previous night.
Chief executive of ICHH Anthony Flynn states:
“Outreach teams found last night particularly difficult, the weather being a serious cause for concern. The unprecedented number of people on the streets in such harsh conditions is totally intolerable.”
“Up to 56 per cent of those engaged refused to enter emergency accommodation citing fear of being robbed or sub-standard accommodation conditions.”
“The fear of someone freezing to death is quite worrying.”
“A roundtable discussion is now warranted, and fears that are instilled in those who are refusing to enter accommodation needs be uplifted.”
The trolley bay of the Longwalk Shopping Centre Dundalk where the body of Paul Gorman, who was homeless, was found last Friday
In the Dáil.
Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Ruth Coppinger and Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin raised the matter of homelessness with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
During their exchanges, Ms Coppinger said Fr Peter McVerry believes the true homeless figure in Dublin may be double the official figure as several locations across the city, where homeless people sleep, are not taken into consideration when official figures are created.
In addition, Mr Ó Caoláin recalled the recent death of 49-year-old father-of-three Paul Gorman in Dundalk.
Mr Gorman’s body was found in the trolley bay of the Longwalk Shopping Centre Dundalk by a member of staff at Tescos at around noon last Friday.
He had been sleeping rough on Thursday night, when temperatures were below zero.
During his response, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said three more hostels – with 210 beds – will open in Dublin on December 9.
From yesterday’s exchanges in the Dáil.
Ruth Coppinger: Last week in the Dáil the Taoiseach referred to the tsunami of homeless as having had a “slight increase”. I challenge the Taoiseach on that because the increase is not slight. The latest figures on homelessness in Dublin were published last week. I will confine my comments to Dublin for the moment. I am aware that there is a homelessness problem in other parts of the country but the bulk of homelessness in the country is in Dublin, which is why I am focusing on it.”
“There were 2,110 children in 1,026 families in emergency accommodation in the last week of October. A total of 67 families with 133 children became newly homeless last month. I will repeat that for the Taoiseach – 67 families became homeless last month. The Taoiseach told the Dáil earlier today that his Government has the most comprehensive housing programme in the history of the State. Indeed, the former Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, used to say the same thing. The Government’s housing programme is clearly not working and I would like the Taoiseach to admit that. I would like him to admit that we have an emergency and to say that there will be a change of course.”
“There has been an increase of 45 in the number of homeless children in Dublin since September 2016. There has been an increase of 639 in the number of homeless children since October 2015. These statistics were provided in response to parliamentary questions I submitted a week ago. There has been an increase of 349 in the number of homeless families since October 2015. In total, there are now 5,146 homeless families in emergency accommodation in Dublin. That does not include the 140 people who were counted sleeping rough on the streets last week – the Taoiseach referred earlier to a figure of 115. Nor does it include the 70 people sleeping on the floor in the Merchant’s Quay cafe or those sleeping in tents in the Phoenix Park. I do not know if the Taoiseach has seen them.
“The total does not include people sleeping in derelict buildings or on park benches. Indeed, according to Fr. Peter McVerry, the true figure for rough sleeping would be twice as high if all of those people were included. Furthermore, the figure does not include the 16 women per day who are turned away from refuges and who face the choice of homelessness or returning to a violent abuser. The total does not include homeless non-nationals who are dealt with by the Department of Social Protection’s new communities unit. The true homelessness figure is much higher than the official one.
“What is causing this? The Taoiseach chairs the Cabinet committee at which several Ministers attend. I do not have time to go into the record of each Department but in terms of Social Protection, cutting the dole for young people will not help. The lack of refuge spaces, for which the Minister for Justice and Equality is responsible, will not help. The response of the Minister for Finance was to focus time and attention on the first-time buyer’s tax rebate of €20,000 which will go straight into the pockets of developers and push up the price of housing.”
“…I am sorry but it is rare to get a chance to ask the Taoiseach questions on such an important issue. Mr David McWilliams who is not a card carrying member of any left wing or socialist party has said that the deposit rules were relaxed by the Central Bank in order for prices to rise which will coax builders who are sitting around waiting for such price rises into beginning to dig foundations. This is State-sanctioned house price inflation.”
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: “I would like the Taoiseach to note that the cold, lifeless body of 49-year-old Paul Gorman was found last Friday morning in the trolley bay at the Longwalk Shopping Centre in Dundalk. He was homeless and died on a particularly cold night when temperatures fell below zero. I want to take the opportunity today to extend my condolences to his family. His death clearly highlights the dangers for rough sleepers.”
“The number of rough sleepers is up over 50% on last year, despite what the Taoiseach and the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government have pledged would be done in regard to emergency bed provision. According to the latest figures from the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, DRHE, about 140 individuals were found to be sleeping on the streets and in doorways. That figure has been challenged, as Deputy Coppinger pointed out, by the Peter McVerry Trust which argues that the actual figure is more likely to be twice that number. On the “Today with Sean O’Rourke” programme on RTE radio this morning a researcher spoke of discovering a cadre of homeless people in Cork who have set up a little camp. They are living in fear and in totally outrageous circumstances. We need to wake up to the real problems here because the true facts of the situation are not being established.”
“With no time left I can only ask the Taoiseach what the Cabinet committee on housing is doing to address this worsening problem and whether it will address the discrepancies in the recording of homeless figures that I have just highlighted.”