Saturday 1 October 2016

91 people on streets still too high, say charities

Jane O'Faherty

Published 11/12/2015 | 02:30

The number of people sleeping on the streets of Dublin this winter is shameful, unacceptable and should be far lower
The number of people sleeping on the streets of Dublin this winter is shameful, unacceptable and should be far lower

The number of people sleeping on the streets of Dublin this winter is shameful, unacceptable and should be far lower, according homeless agencies.

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The charities say efforts made to bring in more beds have had an effect, but stress rent supplement increases and more housing is crucial to meeting the crisis.

Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) found 91 people were bedded down on the capital's streets on the night of November 30 this year, during its annual winter count. Another 61 people were availing of services in the city's Night Café.

Sam McGuinness, of Dublin Simon, said the count revealed a figure that was "shameful and unacceptable", but added it would have been even greater if DRHE carried it out earlier that month.

"The problem is that 100 beds were opened the night before the count," he said. "Before then, the number of rough sleepers might have been in the region of 250."

"All the politicians are saying that everyone will have a bed this Christmas," he added. "We've got 14 days to go, and it's not looking good."

DRHE's rough sleeper count this time last year revealed 168 people in Dublin were sleeping on the streets. At that time, the Night Café was not in existence.

However, Mr McGuinness said the 2015 figure remained "phenomenal" after the allocation of 471 beds in the past 12 months.

Pat Doyle, CEO of the Peter McVerry Trust, welcomed the reduction on last year's number but said he was disappointed the figure was not lower.

"We expected that it would be around 50, and even that is too high," he said.

He added that a focus on building more housing for those who find themselves homeless was needed at this point.

Meanwhile, Mike Allen of Focus Ireland welcomed the fall in rough sleepers and the "huge" efforts that were made to fight homeless this year.

But he added that issues with rent levels, housing security, social welfare and house building were still causing problems.

"Ending rough sleeping is not just about providing an emergency bed for the night - it's about providing a secure and affordable home," he said.

Kerry Anthony, of Depaul Ireland, urged the Government to increase rent supplement levels and build affordable social housing immediately.

"It is not good enough that we continue to have so many people living in emergency accommodation," she said.

"Without effective policies to provide adequate housing throughout the country, we are only treating the symptoms and not the cause of the problem," she added.

The figures came just after the Irish Catholic Bishop's Conference expressed concern that the fundamental human right to housing was "not being adequately addressed".

In a statement, it said housing "is central to the protection of human dignity as so many other rights depend on having a secure home, such as health, education and work".

Environment Minister Alan Kelly said figures from the count represented a 46pc reduction compared to 2014.

Meanwhile, DRHE said the number of beds available for the homeless had increased by 71pc since November last year.

Irish Independent

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