Saturday 23 March 2019

'That is the reality' - Council chief defends comments that homeless services are an 'attractive' option for families, despite criticism

Owen Keegan said that people are "choosing" to present as homeless

Council chief Owen Keegan
Council chief Owen Keegan
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

THE head of Dublin City Council has reiterated his comments that homeless services are an "attractive option" for people in the capital, despite a wave of criticism.

Speaking on RTE Radio One, Owen Keegan said that people are "choosing" to present as homeless to local authorities after a "massive investment" in homeless services.

"That is the reality," Mr Keegan said.

"Homeless figures are very high. I don't think it is unreasonable to point out that there have been major improvements in the quality of services, especially in the quality of accommodation available. If you make better quality accommodation and better services available people are more likely to access those services."

Mr Keegan added that as a result, people are reluctant to move on from homeless services.

"Of the 2,300 single homeless persons who are in emergency accommodation, a proportion of those have a range of very complex problems," he told Sean O'Rourke.

"The reality is that for some of those people, they are not capable of sustaining independent tenancies. In previous days, they would have been in mental institutions. Some of those people won't move on.

"At a more general level, with families in homeless accommodation, in some cases do decide to stay in emergency accommodation because they think they have a better prospect of accessing permanent local authority housing and they make a choice that they will stay in emergency accommodation rather than avail of housing systems payment in the rental sector while they queue up for permanent social housing.

"There are still people who are close enough to the top of the housing list and they choose to wait in temporary homeless accommodation, pending getting an offer of permanent local authority housing."

Sinn Fein TD Eoin O'Broin criticised Mr Keegan's comments, saying he has "no understanding" of the plight of the homeless.

"Homeless families don't have a choice. The reality of homelessness is that people no longer have a roof over their heads and present to a local authority in desperation.

"The clear majority of families who are presenting as homeless currently in Dublin, are doing so because they received a notice to quit from their landlord, relationship or family breakdown or domestic violence. The use of the language choice, suggests that Eoin Keegan really doesn't understand what these families are going through."

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