Members of Bray Municipal District have sought further information from the chief executive on some of their queries about a planned homeless shelter at San Remo.
They have also asked that a committee be formed, ahead of the opening of the facility, for the purposes of communicating with residents of the area. That committee would meet on Zoom.
Cllr Erika Doyle raised the matter under the housing section. 'I realise it's not on the agenda, but as we're meeting in person, I must mention San Remo,' she said. 'I know we have discussed it on Zoom and there's been a lot of communication.'
She said it had been raised the previous day at a meeting of Wicklow County Council, held in Shoreline, Bray. The Wicklow meeting ran out of time and Cllr Doyle said they were waiting for a response from the chief executive
'We as a Municipal District support the acquisition of a facility to address the homeless crisis, she said. 'For the past few months we've been told to stay at home, some people don't have a home and they need vital support. However, that doesn't mean we don't have to listen to the concerns of the residents,' said Cllr Doyle. 'There has to be community buy-in for this to operate successfully. The residents don't feel they are getting all the answers they need. I understand that the housing department are working hard and some of the answers can't come from them, maybe it has to come from the service provider.'
She appealed to any of the management present at the meeting to get as much information as possible for the residents, particularly around the current status of the facility, the identity of the point of contact, the liaison committee, and liaising with the Simon Community.
'We were told at the start of the process that this would happen but there has been no engagement. That's a very negative way to start this process and leads to fears and concern. Maybe there are some which shouldn't be, but with a lack of information they grow legs.'
Cllr Doyle said that she would like the facility to be a success and integrate in a positive way, in a timely fashion and by the correct person. 'At the moment we don't know who that is,' she said. Cllr Doyle said that she supports the service, 'which is vital'.
Dermot O'Brien said that the housing issue has continued during the pandemic. 'For us as councillors it is difficult to meet in person, but the issues haven't disappeared,' he said. 'People are in emergency accommodation, couch surfing, there's over-crowding and rent adjustment.' He said that the housing team were available and responsive under huge pressure. 'There were rough sleepers and people in an unimaginable scenario,' he said.
'It is our issue, we represent this town,' said Cllr O'Brien. 'It's not feasible for us to ask Wicklow for information and continue hoping, waiting and demanding. We need to define where our role is in terms of communication. If a service level agreement is being developed, we need a role.'
He said that there has been a strong lobby from the San Remo area. 'I have received over 90 emails since April 14.' He said that a number of those were supportive of the facility.
Cllr O'Brien said that not all stakeholders have been invited to contribute to the conversation surrounding San Remo.
'Some of the language in some of the emails I received was removed from people, humanity and dignity,' he said.
Acting District Manager Lorraine Gallagher said that the acquisition is near completion. She said that all relevant assessments have been carried out. She said that a liaison committee would be set up once the facility is operational and that the residents would be asked to nominate a representative.
Cllr Aoife Flynn Kennedy said that some residents had acquired an FOI from the council regarding the facility. 'Reading through the FOI, there is some contradiction which led to confusion and some of the fear. I really think we need to form a liaison committee now. If we wait until it's operational, it's too late. We need to include all the stakeholders, including individuals who will be accessing the service.'
She suggested an information committee, rather than one which would ultimately be part of the running of the service, to facilitate community engagement.
'We have all received emails against the facility, but also some for,' said Cllr Flynn Kennedy. 'We've got to find a way to engage with the community. I propose a community based committee, established now and not at a later stage.'
She expressed concern that people haven't yet been moved in, to facilitate greater space along with the Covid-19 crisis. 'Were works greater than anticipated?'
Cllr Melanie Corrigan supported Cllr Flynn Kennedy. 'We need to establish a committee now,' she said. 'Community engagement is what will make it a success.'
Cllr Grace McManus said that one group has been heard, and they want to continue to hear from them. 'I agree we need to widen the scope of who we hear from.'
'I fully support he project,' said Cllr Joe Behan. 'I have from the beginning and will continue to. 'It's extremely unfortunate that people feel they are not being included. The sooner we create an opportunity for people to air their views in public the better. There are two points of view. It's our duty to listen to all arguments and make the best decision we can. I believe this should be a Part 8 process, WE as councillors should have a say and stand by our views and take responsible decisions. It's not acceptable that the officials appear to do all the running and we are excluded from the process.'
HE said that the key seemed to be that if the expenditure on the work for the building 'was less than €127,000 or some figure like that, it could be emergency works and not required to go through Part 8. I find it hard to believe there won't be a lot more spent.'
Cllr Erika Doyle said that it is possible to support the facility while seeking further information.
She said that she wants more information on the assessment done on the specific site. 'I can't stand over that report and say that is why this site is suitable. I'm not an expert, that would be useful to know,' she said. 'That it's set back from the road appears to be the only information.'
Cathaoirleach, Cllr Anne Ferris said that things have been changing in relation to this project. 'Information in the beginning changed in so far as in the beginning the we were told the County Council was acquiring it and it would be sold on to Simon. That is clearly now not the case. The council will retain ownership and Simon is to be the service provider, for this initial Covid stage.'
She said that there are 12 people on the client list, who she said should be moved as soon as possible. Cllr Ferris said that the site is not suitable for people who test positive or are symptomatic.
'I had hoped people would be move there weeks and weeks ago and here we still are,' she said.
She said that she would welcome the opportunity to hear from people working with the homeless, who advocate for them, such as BARSS.
'There are problems with the facility at Novara Road,' said Cllr Ferris. 'The residents there don't have rooms, space, and certainly couldn't call it their home.'
She said that all the members support the new facility. 'This time last year when we were knocking on doors, homelessness and housing were the number one issue. We at last have the opportunity to do something about it.'
She proposed initially that for the July meeting, they invite a spokesperson from BARSS and someone from the residents to a meeting in the Town Hall.
Lorraine Gallagher cautioned against that on public health grounds. The July meeting was scheduled for Zoom, and that remains to be the case. Councils are not meeting in person unless they must for statutory business.
Cllr Ferris, who said she has an underlying condition and is over the age of 60, said that she for one didn't feel safe. 'I know it's urgent for residents and people who are homeless,' she said. She proposed that they contact the housing department for up to date and more specific information. They would then be able to pass that information on to the residents' association.