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Sunday 31 August 2014

€50m emergency plan will use old garda stations to house homeless

John Downing and Emma Jane Hade

Published 20/05/2014 | 02:30

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Worried mothers (from left) Maggie Stapleton, Philomena Deanes, Tami Cronin and Tamara Kearns with Councillor Ruth Coppinger at Leinster House

FORMER garda stations, care homes and asylum seeker centres could be used to house homeless families under a radical plan put before Cabinet today.

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The Government is set to approve a new action plan to tackle homelessness – with up to €50m being spent on targeting the 2,700 people in need.

The new action plan, being put forward by Housing Minister Jan O'Sullivan, is expected to look at a range of new measures including using those buildings currently lying idle.

The document itself describes the growing numbers of homeless families as a "crisis". It will outline a strategy with an aim of ending long-term homelessness by the end of 2016. The memo recommends a relaxation of the rent caps for families at risk of losing their homes to be judged on a case by case basis.

It also stipulates that local authorities must give priority to homeless households in their housing allocations.

Charities have repeatedly warned that the numbers of homeless people in Dublin have increased dramatically since November, when there were 128 families in hotels.

Homeless parents who live in the Dublin City Council emergency accommodation on the North Circular Road said several of their children had been hospitalised.

Some mothers in the complex have claim the building is "damp", "smells" and has "mould on the walls".

Mother-of-two Tami Cronin visited hospital twice within three days with her eldest child.

She is now expecting her third child and said that she would "literally go anywhere", but could not face bringing her unborn child to live in the temporary accommodation.

"I was told that I could be waiting for five years for a council house. I just want to get out so I can get settled," she added.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny admitted that the situation was not acceptable. "I accept that it is a major priority," he said.

"I note the comments that up to five or six families are becoming homeless on a daily basis; this is not sustainable and it's not acceptable and we have got to deal with it and we will deal with it."

Philomena Deans is also struggling to find somewhere to live and has one room in the north inner city accommodation with her two children.

"Mentally, it is having an effect on my kids. A lot of people cry themselves to sleep at night."

Several mothers have now formed the 'Housing Action' group, and are taking a stand on what they described as a "chronic housing shortage".

A Dublin City Council spokeswoman said they were "actively working" to maintain and ensure appropriate services were provided at the complex.

"We will address the issues raised by the individuals with the facilities manager in the service," she added.

Barnardos CEO Fergus Finlay said it was aware of areas in Dublin where the emergency accommodation was "entirely unsuitable". Housing lists around the country are growing, and Mr Finlay said the crisis showed signs of becoming a "full blown epidemic".

Irish Independent

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