There you go.
Previously: A Drafting Error?
Minister for Housing Simon Coveney
Minister for Housing Simon Coveney spoke in the Seanad this afternoon – in relation to the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill.
He also raised the occupation of Apollo House.
“Just on Apollo House, I know it’s a slight diversion and I hope the chair will allow me to just give two minutes on this issue.”
“The only outcome I want here is to ensure that people who are homeless, who slept in Apollo House last night and the night before, that we can manage an orderly transition into a solution for those people, for their immediate challenges in terms of what they’re facing because they are homeless.
“Many people who are homeless have chaotic lives, in terms of challenges in mental health, of family breakdown, of addiction, and so many others. And, normally, a combination of a whole series of them at the same time. And, on top of that, they have the anxiety and worry and stress, sometimes physical demands of actually trying to live night by night, not knowing where they’re going to be tomorrow.”
“So, my understanding is that there were over 30 people in Apollo House last night. What we want to do is work with the people in Apollo House who have raised the profile in terms of homelessness in terms of a national debate this week. And ensure that the people who need help the most here, who are currently resident in Apollo House can make the transition from there to suitable accommodation with professionals who will know a lot more than I’ll ever know about homelessness. Looking after them, whether that’s the Peter McVerry Trust, whether it’s Vincent de Paul, whether it’s the Simon Community, whether it’s Focus Ireland, whoever it is, right?”
“And we need to make sure that that transition doesn’t add to the already stressful and uncertain situation that many of those people face. And I would ask people in Apollo House to work with us on that. I think there are a lot of good people involved in that campaign who want to see the right outcome here, as well as want to continue a campaign to put me under pressure to deliver faster – and that’s fine, too. That’s politics.
“And it is my job to lead the political response that’s needed to solving homelessness. And I am going to do that.”
“We have started that process. Even the most critical people, of Government policy and homelessness would accept that we have the most comprehensive homeless strategy that we’ve ever had in Ireland now. It’s all about implementing it and getting results for people. And that is why, in the last six weeks, we have used emergency powers, to basically put leases in places for three new hostels in Dublin.
“We have had construction teams 24 hours a day, in some cases, kitting out those facilities. I’ve sanctioned over €5million for those three projects. And if we need another one, then we’ll get another one.
“But we’ll do it, in a way, that ensures the safety of homeless people that are going to be accommodated there, learning lessons from other hostels that haven’t worked as well as they might have over the need for better design and so on.”
“So, you know, the three new hostels, one is in Little Britain Street – there’s 45 beds open there now. There’s 75 in Ellis Quay, which is being run by the Peter McVerry Trust; sorry, Little Britain Street is being run by the DePaul Trust, they have 70 beds open. And there’ll probably be a few more added to that.
“And then Camden Hall, which is a more controversial one, on Francis Street, because there was an injunction preventing us from opening that facility last week, from local residents. And we had to go to court to open it. And that will be open by Friday. There’ll be 25 beds initially of 51 beds that will be place in the, you know, not too distant future and we’re talking days rather than weeks, run by the Simon Community.”
“There’s another 20 beds then that are going to be provided on Wolfe Tone Quay, by Civil Defence if there’s a need for overflow or extra spaces. And so, when all of those facilities are fully up and running, we’ll be talking about adding about 240 beds to the system.
“When I was asked for more beds in advance of winter, by the NGOs working in the sector, I was asked to provide an extra 120/125 beds to the system. We’re going to be adding 240 beds to the system. And it’s just as well we are actually. Because we’re gonna need the vast majority of them.
“Last night there were 15 beds unoccupied in our shelters and we had more than 30 people in Apollo House and I’m sure there were some people on the streets last night. So we need these extra beds. And I’m not going to get into judgement on people in Apollo House, in terms of the campaign here. What I’m interested in is resolving this issue before Christmas if we can do that, and helping people who need the State’s help – to make the transition into hostel facilities that they can trust and believe in, in terms of their own security and in terms of, more importantly, getting them onto a program that can help them transition from temporary, emergency accommodation into a home of their own in terms of a social housing solution, in time.”
“And actually, just, for the record, there has been a record number of people that have made that transition this year. There’ll be over 2,700 families and individuals that will have gone from homelessness into permanent accommodation and we need to do more of that next year and we’re going to. And we have the resources to do it.”
“Finally, on the resources, this year the allocation for my department for homelessness services was €70million, next year, it’s €100million. And there’s a lot more money, on top of that, coming from the department of health, about €36million next year. And, of course, there are multiples of that in terms of social housing. In terms of acquisitions.
“I think I mentioned earlier, we spent €203million this year, acquiring over 1,000 properties across the local authorities across the country, again trying to get social housing numbers up.”
“So, there is a really strong commitment in this area to get on top of it. Not because of the politics of it or anything but because, if a state can’t house people, that are so vulnerable that they literally have nowhere to go, well then I think we have to ask ourselves serious questions. And it’s my responsibility to make sure that we answer those questions. But you can’t do it overnight. And we’re ramping up services quickly.”
“I think, again, most of the NGOs that I’ve spoken to and yesterday I met the CEOs of four key ones, they would all accept that by the end of this week, we should have enough beds to deal with everybody who wants a bed. And we need to start working with people who are refusing beds, who are on the streets at the moment, to try and get them into shelter as well.”
Watch the debate live here