Focus Ireland calls on Dublin City Councillors to vote in favour of housing homeless families in O’Devaney Garden’s in Monday’s vote
Focus Ireland, the leading housing and homeless charity, has called on all Dublin City Councillors to support a proposal to renovate 64 homes in O’Devaney Gardens for families which are are currently homeless.
Focus Ireland also called on the Minister of Environment, Alan Kelly, and Dublin City Council to make further commitments to ensure that the newly housed families get adequate on-going support and also commit to investment in broader regeneration in the area, to overcome existing reservations. The vote on the proposal is scheduled to take place tomorrow (Monday 13th April), and several councillors have already indicated their intention to vote down the proposal.
If the proposal goes ahead 64 housing units which were scheduled for demolition will instead be renovated and made available to some of the hundreds of families which have become homeless due to the growing housing crisis in the city. The most recent official figures (Department of Environment, Feb 2015) show 371 families with 803 children were housed in emergency accommodation in Dublin at the end of February. However Focus Ireland’s own services report that since then over 60 additional families became homeless in March, the highest ever monthly figure.
‘This proposal originates in the 20 point plan announced by Minister Alan Kelly on the 9th December last year, following the tragic death of Jonathan Corrie on the streets of Dublin. The 20 point plan included a promise (Point 9) that the council’s plans to demolish over 600 vacant homes across the city would be reconsidered to see which of them could be used to deal with the crisis. At the time there was widespread political and public support for this plan, and a recognition that it is wrong to demolish viable homes at a time when people are forced to sleep on the street or to raise their children in a single room in a B&B.
The O’Devaney Gardens proposal is the first significant outcome of this initially well-received promise, and it is shocking to hear so many of our Councillors saying that they now plan to vote against homes for desperate homeless families. Focus Ireland is calling on Councillors who are thinking of opposing the proposal to think of the plight of these families and reconsider. Defeat for this proposal would condemn 64 families to continue to live in appalling and inhuman circumstances and probably bring an end to an initiative which could benefit hundreds.
“Focus Ireland has delayed making a statement on this issue until we have had an opportunity for our staff to consult with the homeless families we work with. We have now received a clear message that this initiative, for all its limitations, will be storngly welcomed. We now call on the city councillors to listen to the voice of these families too.
“Focus Ireland recognises that this is not an ideal proposal but it is a sign of the scale of crisis that we face that such measures are essential. We have expressed concern that the proposal put to the council contains very little about the support which will be given to these families after they move in, and the council has had no discussion with our team who provide that support, or the families themselves. It would certainly strengthen this proposal if stronger commitments were made in relation to ensuring such support would be put in place, including support to help these families move on back into mainstream housing. Focus Ireland has supported the Council in moving families in similar projects and the positive outcomes of these could be used to allay concerns in the wider community.
“In particular, Focus Ireland recognises that this proposal creates difficulties for the existing community in O’Devaney Gardens,” said Mike Allen, Director of Advocacy at Focus Ireland. “This community has had the bitter experience of a series broken commitments to renovate their area, for almost a decade they have endured living alongside vacant and demolished units. Now they will see units renovated and made available for others. Their frustration at this is understandable. Focus Ireland have strongly supported the Government’s commitment to more social housing but it is increasingly clear that a commitment to more housing must be backed by a commitment to decent housing and sustainable communities. As part of the O’Devaney proposal, the Minister and Dublin City Council should give realistic assurances that the regeneration programme will proceed and that there will be benefits for the existing families.
However, the families that are homeless and living in inhuman conditions without even facilities to cook food for their children, often miles away from the children’s schools, cannot be held hostage due to the wider failures of Government.
‘If councillors had fully grasped the scale of family homelessness that our city faces, the only criticism we would be hearing is that this proposal is not enough – because it is not enough. Some councillors have talked about unspecified ‘alternatives’ to this proposal. The truth is that we need this proposal along with any viable ‘alternative’ that can be found. Every week we face a growing risk that there won’t be enough hotel rooms or emergency accommodation for the families that need it. Focus Ireland has repeatedly warned that there is a growing risk that families along with their children will be forced to sleep rough. While the O’Devaney gardens proposal will not, in itself, solve that problem, voting it down will certainly bring that terrible day closer.
Focus Ireland also drew attention to the fact the at the primary reason why most of these families became homeless is that they were unable to pay their private sector rents because of the decision of the Department of Social Welfare not to increase the level of Rent Supplement for almost two years, despite increases in market rent of up to 20%. Unless the Department of Social Welfare changes its stance on this and starts to give families sufficient income to pay their rent, Dublin will require a project like O’Devaney Gardens every four weeks.
“It would be useful if the Councillors were to pass a motion calling on the Department of Social Protection to recognise real rent levels in the city. It would not solve the problem, but it would stop it escalating at such an appalling rate.’
Contact Mike Allen, Director of Advocacy, 087 2305869