Thursday 18 January 2018

Charities criticise government over €18.5m homeless budget shortfall

Housing Minister Alan Kelly
Housing Minister Alan Kelly

Cormac Fitzgerald

Leading charity figures have strongly criticised the Government for an €18.5m shortfall in Dublin City Council's allocated funding for homeless services.

Last night, Dick Brady, head of housing with the city council, said that he had been informed by the Department of the Environment that they would receive €37.1m to run homeless services, despite having sought €55m. The total estimated cost for services for the year is €68m.

Anthony Flynn, Director with Inner City Helping Homeless, has called for Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly, to resign over how he has handled the issue of homelessness in Ireland.

"Services are tight enough as it is, and if people aren't getting monies that are due that they had forecasted in their budgets then we're going to have a serious issue with regards to homelessness," said Mr. Flynn.

Mike Allen, Director of Advocacy with Focus Ireland, has also criticised the government, saying that a consistent and coherent response is needed to properly address the issue.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Mr. Allen said that the amount that Dublin City Council is looking for is essentially the homeless services budget for the entire country.

"We are facing a completely unprecedented problem of family homelessness and Dublin city Council and all the councils on the outskirts of Dublin are increasingly forced to put up homeless families in hotels - and that's extremely expensive," said Mr. Allen.

He also said that following the death of a man outside the Dáil last December, the Government had said that money for homelessness wasn't going to be an issue.

Read more: Dublin City Council facing shortfall of €18.5m for homelessness services

"After Jonathan Corrie's tragic death... it was made fairly clear by the Minister that this was a humanitarian issue and that money wasn't going to be an object, but it turns out that money seems to be an object and I think they need to sort out that problem very soon," he said.

There are now 1,122 homeless children in Dublin, councillors were told last night, double the amount of this time last year. According to figures from Focus Ireland, there are 70 families becoming homeless in Ireland every month.

Fine Gael councillor, Noel Rock, has called for city councillors and Minister Kelly to sit down together in order to sort out the money problem before the summer recess.

"I think that this is something that can be easily solved, and that the will exists from the minister to solve it," said Cllr. Rock.

However, the chair of the council's housing committee, Daithí Doolan, said that the shortfall in funding is the latest in a series of promised funding from the environment that hasn't arrived.

"We've gone from a crisis to an emergency," said Cllr. Doolan. "I hope the minister will meet us as soon as possible, but we cannot re-visit this every few months... We need to see the money released to Dublin City Council to provide emergency services."   

In a statement, the Department of the Environment said that discussions are ongoing with the Council on how to resolve the issue, and that the €55m requested funding for Dublin was not realistic.

"The council have already been told that, as potential savings or under-spends emerge in other area of departmental expenditure later in the year, there will be opportunities to switch additional funding to homelessness," said the statement.

"The Minister, Alan Kelly TD, and Minister for State, Paudie Coffey TD, are both committed to achieving a satisfactory outcome to the discussions and continue to prioritise action on homelessness."

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