Focus Ireland opens evening service for families waiting for emergency accommodation
Just a few months ago, the Focus Ireland Coffee Shop was supporting around 30 families a day to find emergency accommodation; this number has surged to around 100 a day.
Focus Ireland, with the support of TUSLA (the Child and Family Agency), has opened a new evening service to provide a safe and supportive place for families that are homeless, and unable to access their emergency accommodation until late at night.
The service, which opened on the June 18, is based in the Focus Ireland Coffee Shop in Temple Bar, Dublin.
Normal service at the Coffee Shop will finish at 5pm and the premises will re-open at 5.30pm as a targeted service for this group of vulnerable families.
The service will provide an evening meal, a place for children to do their homework, play areas and a place of safety for these families. Families will also have the support of skilled case managers to help them cope with their circumstances and navigate out of homelessness. The service will close at 9pm – or whenever the families have been able to move to their emergency accommodation.
Focus Ireland is the lead voluntary organisation in Dublin tackling the family homelessness crisis. As part of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive’s (DRHE) Pathways to Home, the day-time service in the Coffee Shop, along with its other work, has been helping homeless families access emergency accommodation for the night.
Just a few months ago, the Coffee Shop was supporting around 30 families to find emergency accommodation each day (see note).
In recent months this number has surged to around 100 a day. Accommodation is found for most by early evening, but there are always a few who cannot access accommodation until late at night
This service will facilitate around 6 families each evening, – with approximately 12-15 children - who have been identified as needing this extra assistance.
John O’Haire, manager of the Coffee Shop says “Finding hotel rooms for so many families is a major daily challenge for our staff”.
He said most families have somewhere to stay by evening, but some of the emergency accommodation cannot be accessed until late at night.
“This leaves families waiting for hours in fast food restaurants and the like, with their children struggling to do homework.
This is an enormous stress for the parents and very disrupting for the children. Often the family will be waiting until 11pm before emergency accommodation can be made available for them. They have to start the same search the following day, and many have to get their children to school as part of this.
We have these warm rooms and catering equipment here in the Coffee Shop but we did not have the resources for the support staff in the evening that such a service needs. We have been working in collaboration with Tusla about the range of problems that these particular families face, and we were delighted when they offered to fund the evening staff supported by some of the current resources. The initial funding is until the end of the year, while better longer term solutions are explored.”
Tusla CEO Fred McBride said the Agency was committed to “helping families through tough times and being without a home was one of the toughest challenges any family could face”.
He said Focus Ireland was one of 1000 partner agencies funded and supported by Tusla to deliver services for children, families and communities across the country.
“Tusla has an important role in working closely with partners supporting small highly-targeted services such as this, as well as large scale local, regional and national services that can make a meaningful difference for families,” Mr. McBride added.
Focus Ireland CEO, Pat Dennigan, said,
“This new evening service is the first step in a series of new family support services which the Focus Ireland Board has decided to develop over the new few months.
We do not believe that the Government’s housing response is sufficient to reduce the family homelessness crisis over the coming years, and, as the lead organisation working with families that are homeless, we believe we need to step up to provide the support that families need.
The Board has committed to opening a new Family Service, which will play the same key role for families which the Coffee Shop has played for single homeless people for the last 30 years. We are currently exploring locations and funding for this much needed service.”
Around one third of the 1,351 homeless families in Dublin are in Family Hubs or Supported Emergency Accommodation, while more than half are in private emergency accommodation such as commercial hotels and B&Bs (57%), with balance in other forms of accommodation. Around 250 families have to secure their own accommodations which the DRHE pays for (‘Self-accommodation), while others are housed on a ‘one-night-only’ basis while their case is being considered.
 Report to Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, DRHE, June 2018, pg 18, Table 2.