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Wednesday 17 January 2018

To solve homeless crisis, we need more houses for families... not more deadlines

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Ryan Nugent

The deadline has come and gone, and the Government's target to have no family living in emergency accommodation has not been met.

Close to 650 families with children are still living in commercial hotels in Dublin alone - despite former housing minister Simon Coveney's deadline of July 1 to have all families out of hotels and B&Bs.

And the homeless crisis shows no sign of being resolved any time soon. In fact, it's getting worse month-on-month.

The latest data from the Department of Housing shows that 647 homeless families are living in commercial hotels and B&Bs in Dublin. Some 1,312 families are homeless across the country, 10 more than last month.

An astonishing 2,777 children are homeless, up from 2,708 in April. At the same time, some 4,922 adults have nowhere to call home.

The most recent figures - dated up until May 31 - were provided by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) which said that the figures fluctuate daily.

Mr Coveney had intended moving a large proportion of these families into 15 family hubs across the capital by today, although new Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy admitted in recent weeks that the deadline would not be met.

It is understood that at least 10 of these hubs are in the process of being readied. Just one is in operation. It is home to 40 families. A spokeswoman for the DRHE said another location was due to be ready in the coming days.

"There were 647 families with children experiencing homelessness in hotels in the Dublin region on May 31," the spokeswoman said. "This figure changes daily, as some families will move on from emergency accommodation. However, new families are presenting as homeless on a weekly basis.

"At present, there is just one family hub in operation, the facility in High Park, Drumcondra, operated by Respond. This facility provides accommodation for about 42 families. We hope the facility on Clonliffe Road, to be operated by Crosscare, will be open in the coming days. This facility will provide accommodation for about 50 families."

City councillors have been invited to view the Clonliffe Road facility next week in preparation for the opening. A letter to elected members said these would only be a temporary solution.

"Family hubs are an important first response for families who become homeless," it read. "They are not the long-term housing solution, as families will move into houses and apartments that will be provided under social housing supports, once supply becomes available."

At the end of March, 871 families were in emergency accommodation. That has dropped by more than 220, but it's worth noting that in the same period, around 600 families presented as homeless. Around half avoided hotel rooms. Money is being spent - €25m on the homeless hubs alone. But only new homes coming on to the market will ultimately resolve this crisis.

On that point, there are some green shoots. The number of units granted planning permission and under construction is on the increase. Government funding to provide essential infrastructure on sites will help increase delivery of houses and apartments.

But the figures of completions remain stubbornly below what is required. Experts suggest at least 25,000 a year are needed to keep pace with demand. Given the lack of construction in recent years, that's probably closer to 40,000. Last year, just under 15,000 were completed.

Not until new units come on stream will homeless families finally have a place to call home. And there's no deadline for that.

Irish Independent

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