Additional 200 emergency beds
and the Cold Weather Initiative

Additional 200 beds for Rough Sleepers

No person should have to sleep on our streets or be without shelter at any time of the year.

At the Housing Summit in September, I emphasised the need for all Local Authorities to have enough emergency beds and appropriate facilities in place for every person sleeping rough on any night of the week.

The Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) have reported today that a total of 184 people were sleeping rough across the Dublin region on the night of the 7th November 2017. We are currently in the process of delivering 200 additional permanent emergency beds so that there will be a bed and all the necessary supports available for anyone who needs them. All of these beds will be brought into use over the coming weeks and all will be in place by 18 December.

Exits from rough sleeping into Housing First will continue in parallel with this work. The DRHE will also implement their targeted programme to reach out to all those sleeping rough and to provide them with the interventions and support they need. Housing First is the best solution, but there are people who need beds immediately, and we can provide that on a permanent basis with these new beds.

These supports are being put in place with our partner organisations. For example, the facility I am visiting today on the Cabra Road will be funded by the taxpayer and operated by our partners the Peter McVerry Trust. The people that use this facility will also have access to a range of health and welfare supports, as well as food and sanitary facilities, which they would not have on the streets.

Facilities like the ones which are being delivered between now and Christmas will provide some stability so that the housing authorities and the HSE can work with the individuals involved to see how they might exit homelessness into independent living.

Our first priority when dealing with homelessness must be to look after those who are most vulnerable – the more than 180 people who are sleeping rough on the streets at night – to get them into safe shelter and then on to one of the many pathways of more secure and sustainable supports.  

 

Cold Weather Initiative  

We are entering a cold weather period, when people will be particularly vulnerable. It is imperative that we have in place a coordinated and robust response for anyone who might be sleeping rough over this period. Hence the need for a Cold Weather Strategy.

The DRHE have published their Cold Weather Strategy – it will see the availability of additional temporary beds and accommodation, if required, in addition to the 200 new beds I am announcing today. There will be more than enough spare capacity in the system, as an additional precaution.

This Cold Weather Strategy can also be activated during more extreme weather conditions – the excellent response for vulnerable homeless people during the recent Storm Ophelia is testament to this.

Given the extreme cold weather expected over the coming days, arrangements are in place since last night with our partners like Peter McVerry Trust and Focus Ireland to ensure that additional temporary shelter can be brought into use across a range of existing services and facilities for singles and couples on a temporary basis.  (A contingency emergency response is in place permanently for any family who may be at risk of sleeping rough at any time.)

Across the country, cold weather plans and initiatives are also being advanced. Local authorities in major urban centres have confirmed to me that they have robust contingency arrangements to meet any additional homeless requirements, as they arise during the winter. In Cork an additional 25 temporary beds are in place, in Galway 34 temporary beds in place and in Limerick an additional 10 temporary beds in place.

My Department and I will continue to monitor and review the situation as the winter progresses.    

 

Housing First

We all know that emergency accommodation should only be a first response.

What we want is that all homeless people, individuals and families, are moved to more permanent housing quickly. Many homeless individuals have complex needs that require supports beyond housing. We must work with the homeless individuals, on a one-on-one basis, so that root issues can be addressed and managed to help them achieve independent living in the long term.

The Housing First programme is critical in this regard and provides direct access to housing and to the intensive health, addiction and personal supports required for people who are homeless and have complex needs to maintain their tenancies. This includes rough sleepers, long-term users of emergency accommodation, young people exiting care, and those exiting institutions such as prisons and hospitals. Evidence in Ireland and internationally shows the Housing First approach to be an efficient and effective way to address homelessness for these groups.  

This not only helps them, but also reduces the overall reliance on emergency accommodation in the medium to long term.

Using this model, 180 new tenancies have been created in Dublin under a consortium contract between the DRHE, Focus Ireland and the Peter McVerry Trust.  We are now extending Housing First to the major urban areas outside of Dublin. The housing authorities in Cork, Limerick and Galway are working closely with the HSE and NGOs with a view to delivering 100 tenancies starting next year.

In line with a commitment I made at the recent Housing Summit, a new National Director of Housing First will be recruited shortly to support the delivery of this very important programme.

 

October Homeless Numbers

We continue to face a crisis in homelessness. However the situation is beginning to look like it is stabilising in Dublin, which is where our homeless problem has been most severe. The numbers continue to increase outside of Dublin however and so we must take the actions that have arrested the increase in Dublin and apply them elsewhere.

In October the Dublin Region experienced a decrease of one in the number of homeless adults. The number of families in emergency accommodation increased by one – this despite 88 new families entering services during the month (meaning that 87 families successfully exited homelessness in this same period). This follows two months of a decline in the number of families in emergency accommodation in Dublin.

In the same month, the number of families in commercial hotels and B&Bs in Dublin also reduced, from 690 to 676. This means that the number of families in hotels and B&Bs has now decreased by 22% since the high point of March of this year. Between now and January 2018 an additional 185 hub spaces will become available in Dublin and 45 new hub spaces will also become available in Limerick.

Since the beginning of Rebuilding Ireland the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive has worked tirelessly to prevent people from losing their homes, in addition to securing housing for those who have already lost homes. This has resulted in over 600 preventions of homelessness, in addition to more than 2,000 exits from homelessness since the beginning of the year. That’s more than 2,600 people who would be homeless today if not for the coordinated efforts led by the DRHE.

This is the product of many hours and weeks of work by the DRHE. We would ask people who feel they are at risk of homelessness to link in with the DRHE at the very earliest opportunity so that they, with their partners Threshold, can take steps to prevent the eviction in the first instance and where this is not possible, to put the correct supports in place to ensure the housing need of the household is met.

The number of people accessing emergency accommodation in October was 8,492 nationally.  This comprises 5,298 adults and 3,194 dependents. While this figure has increased, the rate of increase is much smaller and indeed we are seeing the numbers stabilising in the Dublin region, an important step along the pathway to addressing successfully the challenge of homelessness.    

The delivery of homes is key to meeting the needs of those experiencing homelessness. We will provide social housing solutions for over 21,000 individuals and families this year and my Department, local authorities and approved housing bodies will continue to work closely, quickly and proactively to identify further solutions and increase social housing supports so that we can give those in emergency accommodation the help they need.

 

  October 2017 September 2017 Difference
National
Homeless Adults 5,298 5,250 48
Homeless Families 1,463 1,455 8
Dependents 3,194 3,124 70
Dublin only
Homeless Adults 3,536 3,537 -1
Homeless Families 1,139 1,138 1
Dependents 2,425 2,416 9
Rest of Country only
Homeless Adults 1,762 1,713 49
Homeless Families 324 317 7
Dependents 769 708 61