Wexford County Council has said 'it is not giving up' on the town's rough sleepers and has vowed to keep engaging with the long-term homeless no matter what.
Speaking at the meeting of the Wexford Borough District, Housing Officer Michelle Carley acknowledged that there a number of 'entrenched' rough sleepers in the town but said the council is continuing to work with, and provide services for, these people.
Highlighting the new Housing First initiative, which caters specifically for those who have been homeless for long periods of time, Ms Carley said, 'The majority of rough sleepers out there are aware of this (Housing First). They've come, they've pulled back, but we're not giving up on them. Wexford County Council and all of the services are going out to those people, and we will constantly engage with them. Even when they at times pull back, we'll keep going with those people.'
The Housing First programme was announced in July and has been designed to address the needs of those who have a history of rough sleeping and those residing in supported temporary accommodation. At the time of the announcement it was stated that 12 one-bedroom properties would be allocated in the Wexford area with all 12 tenants expected to be housed within 10-12 months.
And Ms Carley provided an update on the status of those properties.
'We're at the licensing stage, we have properties identified, and have carried out assessments on Housing First clients,' she said. 'We're engaging very positively with some, others are at an outreach stage so they have to be brought forward and encouraged to come in, I would expect that once we get this license signed we would see progress, and Housing First clients moving into Housing First properties, with the relevant supports linked up beforehand because there's no point putting people in these properties without support.'
While accepting the long-term positive benefits of the Housing First programme, Councillor Davy Hynes expressed concern over the lack of emergency accommodation for those presenting as homeless in Wexford Town.
Addressing Ms Carley, the Independent Councillor asked, 'Is there any progress on emergency accommodation in the town area? That's still a major problem.'
In response the Housing Officer replied, 'Our first option with anyone who presents as homeless is to get the background as to how they ended up in that situation. We would use family and friends first and if we're satisfied they have a homeless issue we may consider B&Bs at that point. But a lot of people can stay with family and friends, I know that might be sofa surfing but what they are assured of in that case is we will provide them with the support of the social welfare and also financial support under the Place Finder if they haven't lost the tenancy through their own actions.'
Councillor Hynes then queried the options available to those present as homeless during the weekend.
'There isn't anything there as such,' admitted Ms Carley. 'But if someone presents as homeless they can present to the guards, to the hospital, and they may put them somewhere, as in the Women's Refuge, Ozanan House, and then they come back up here on the Monday.'
The Housing Officer also revealed that homeless protocols throughout the county were currently under review because Wexford County Council was in the process of moving to a centralised system.
'There will be changes to the type of service we will be providing, we'll be changing to match the centralised service,' she said. 'I think it will be better, when people present you will have the social workers, plus Placefinder, Focus Ireland, Housing First, all positioned in one place, in one building, it's a streamlined service. I certainly welcome it.'