'Some homeless people refuse to go to shelters even in worst weather imaginable'
Housing Minister says nobody being turned away
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy insisted homeless people aren't being turned away from shelters during the current freezing weather.
But he said that some people refuse to go to shelters even in "the worst type of weather imaginable".
Meanwhile, he also said the number of people in emergency accommodation in December is down.
There were 9,968 people in emergency accommodation in November. That figure includes 3,811 children.
There were 9,753 homeless people in emergency accommodation in December according to the latest figures from the Department of Housing.
That's a decrease of 215 people from the previous official figures for November.
A Housing Department statement that that there has been a decrease of 111 families including 252 children in emergency accommodation.
There was said to be a decrease of 11 families in hotels in Dublin.
The figures show an increase of 37 adults in emergency accommodation and the statement said this was expected "given the large numbers of new beds introduced for rough sleepers in the Dublin region".
Mr Murphy said that its the fifth consecutive month where there's been a reduction in the number of families presenting as homeless in the Dublin region and entering emergency accommodation.
He argued that that this shows that "increased outreach and prevention activity, such as HAP Placefinders, are starting to deliver results."
Mr Murphy also said: “Following consultations last weekend with MET Éireann concerning this week’s cold weather alerts, I issued instructions to all local authorities to ensure that shelter is available for all those at risk of sleeping rough.
"Increased outreach activity will encourage those who are rough sleeping to avail of the available shelter.
He said the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) is delivering over 200 additional permanent beds and more than 150 temporary beds have been introduced as part of the cold weather initiative.
He said: "The DRHE has confirmed that there is sufficient bed capacity to provide shelter for all of those who wish to avail of it.”
Earlier in the Dáil, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald raised claims that there were no beds available in Dublin last night.
She said one homeless charity said that 86 people slept rough.
She also said people had contacted her office to say that people who had been “turfed out” of hostels this morning were staying in tents.
Dublin Regional Homeless Executive Eileen Gleeson insisted on RTÉ Radio that there was no shortage of beds.
And Mr Murphy told the Seanad that the cold weather initiative is in effect.
He said: "some people have been saying incorrectly that people have been turned away from shelters.
"That is not the case. There is sufficient capacity in the system."
He said that outreach teams are on the streets and that while some accommodation isn't suitable to remain open during the day, there are care centres where homeless people can go during these hours.
He said: "It’s very important that we do that because it’s a very, very vulnerable time when have cold weather like we have at the moment."
Mr Murphy said that homelessness is a complex issue, and some people refuse to go to shelters "even when we have the worst type of weather imaginable such as Storm Emma".
"We won’t stop going out with our outreach teams to try and help them in because it’s such a priority for us to keep people safe at a time like this."
Mr Murphy said that the December figures for people in emergency accommodation will show a "welcome" overall reduction in numbers.
He said: "It would have been anticipated to a degree because it was the month of December.
"We’ll also have seen a decrease in presentations as well which was welcome."
However, he said there will be an increase in homeless adults.
He said: "While no increase is welcome, those people are now in the system.
"They’re off the streets and they’re getting the care that they need and we want to transition them now into sustainable accommodation where they can have safety and security."
He said: "The overall number of people in emergency accommodation is down and it’s a welcome thing to see."