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Friday 23 August 2019

Record numbers sleeping rough as cold snap hits

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy Photo: Mark Condren
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy Photo: Mark Condren

Ryan Nugent and Luke Byrne

A record number of people have been found sleeping rough in Dublin.

But Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has pledged there will be "more than enough" capacity in emergency accommodation to help the homeless during the cold winter months.

The winter headcount found 184 people in parks, streets, doorways and shop fronts on November 7.

The unprecedented numbers were released as the Government announced it would open another 200 emergency beds across the city by December 18.

With temperatures set to drop, the minister said a cold weather strategy could be implemented.

"Given the extreme cold weather expected over the coming days, arrangements are in place with our partners, like Peter McVerry Trust and Focus Ireland, to ensure additional shelter can be brought into use across a range of existing services and facilities for singles and couples on a temporary basis," Mr Murphy said.

He pointed to the response for vulnerable homeless people during Hurricane Ophelia as an example of the success of the cold weather strategy.

Some 8,500 people are now living in emergency accommodation, while Dublin City Council has recorded its highest number of rough sleepers.

The latest rough sleeper count showed an increase despite the number of emergency beds also rising. There were 241 extra beds provided last year.

Read more: Number of people sleeping rough in Dublin hits all-time record

Non-EU nationals are not entitled to emergency accommodation. There were 53 rough sleepers recorded in Dublin who were non-Irish. However, it is unclear how many of these are from outside the EU.

"We don't have an obligation to provide them (non-EU) with housing," Mr Murphy said.

"But it's very important as far as I'm concerned that whomever we encounter on our streets, sleeping rough, that we put in place every piece of support that we can and we get them into emergency accommodation."

He was speaking yesterday at the opening of a new emergency 60-bed facility on Cabra Road.

Depaul Ireland CEO Kerry Anthony described the latest rough sleeper figures as "very worrying", but said there must be continued commitment to the Rebuilding Ireland scheme.

Simon Communities spokeswoman Niamh Randall said a failure in the private sector to provide an adequate number of homes has caused the crisis to deepen.

"As people move out of emergency accommodation, more people come in to take their place. This has to be traced back to the failure of the private sector to provide for housing needs, in the absence of sufficient social and affordable housing," Ms Randall said.

Read more: Government to open emergency beds as record number sleeping rough in Dublin

Irish Independent

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