HOMELESSNESS is one of the biggest challenges facing Wicklow County Council according to members.
The issue came up for discussion after a progress report of the Regional Homelessness Action Plan 2010-2013 was circulated to the members.
Speaking on Monday at the monthly council meeting Cllr. John Byrne 'we have a serious problem of people being homeless particularly in the town of Bray. A lot of work is being done by voluntary organisations but we need to come up with some form of suitable accommodation to deal with people who are homeless in Bray.
' This council has never faced up to this and we have a real problem. I think we need a proper facility.
' I'd like to see who is going to drive this. Will there be a local committee.
'I would say this is one of the biggest problems we have. We are dealing with the most vulnerable people. Voluntary organisations are getting no funding and are relying on voluntary donations.
' These are our people, Wicklow people, people who we went to school with, people we played football with, people from our parish who for some reason are living rough. We have a duty and an obligation to do something for them.'
Cllr. Nicky Kelly said ' voluntary bodies are stretched to the hilt. These people who are the most vulnerable will fall by the way side. We have seen a young man dying on the streets in Bray recently, dying in a doorway. We can't ignore this. People are dying on the streets.'
Cllr. John Brady 'we need real action on this. Homelessness comes in many facets. It's not just people sleeping rough many families are sleeping on sofas in other people's houses too.'
He also asked about the future of the hostel in Bray on Brighton Terrace which can sleep up to 18 men.
'I heard this was closing. It does need a lot of work and there is no case management there. Who has responsibility for it, Bray Town Council or Wicklow County Council.'
Cllr. Jimmy O'Shaughnessy said ' one of the biggest problems we have is homelessness. The onus is on each and every one of us to do something for these people.'
He suggested Lotto funding should be looked for to help fund homeless facilities in the county saying 'I think there was better ways of spending money rather than on golf clubs'.
Cllr. Vincent Blake wondered if Wicklow County Council kept some houses for emergency accommodation.
Cllr. Pat Vance said the housing lists in the county have never been as long. However he said the provision of housing for people who are homeless needs to be ' handled very delicately' noting that some people who are homeless 'won't go into housing'.
He also said that case management needs to be a priority. ' It's the easiest thing in the world to build a hostel but we have to provide ongoing services.'
The members were told that Bray Town Council has responsibility for Brighton Terrace adding that neither Brighton Terrace nor the hostel in Rathdrum meet 'current best practice standards in terms of proving a service to people experiencing homelessness.'
A council official stressed that 'Bray will have to have some sort of emergency homeless provision'.