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.”
“One of the main reasons for people becoming homeless is the failure of the Fine Gael Party, in particular, to do anything to tackle landlords and their control over tenants. Mr David Erlich of the Ires Real Estate Investment Trust, REIT, told The Irish Times last week: “It’s a great market, we’ve never seen rental increases like this in any jurisdiction that we’re aware of”. I hope the Government’s private rental policy, to be announced next week, will introduce rent controls.
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.”
Pic: Dundalk Democrat