Focus Ireland said new figures reporting over 100 people sleeping rough in Dublin show prevention and more homes – not just more emergency beds – vital to end the crisis.
The figures issued by the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive found a minimum of 105 (people were sleeping rough in Dublin on the night of 14th April compared to the last count of 168 sleeping rough on Nov 11th last year. In addition, there were 46 people in the new Homeless Night Café – who were not ‘rough sleeping’ but did not even have an emergency bed.
Focus Ireland said that although the drop of over 60 people sleeping rough was a welcome improvement, the overall homeless crisis is continuing to deepen. The charity said this is highlighted by the sharp rise of over 300 people who are homeless staying in emergency beds from a total of 1526 last Nov to 1872 this month in April.
The charity is highlighting that this reduction in rough sleepers is the direct result of the 280 extra emergency beds put into the system by Minister Alan Kelly at the end of last year in co-operation with the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive and organisations such as Focus Ireland and the Peter McVerry Trust.
Focus Ireland noted that while there was no official count at the time, the number of people sleeping rough at Christmas/New Year had fallen to around 15 – and these people had declined beds that were available.
The April count confirms the deterioration in homelessness which the Housing First – Focus Ireland/Peter McVerry Trust team has been reporting. All emergency beds were full on the night of the roughsleeper count and Focus Ireland said there is a continuing increase of new people becoming homeless with some ending up sleeping rough.
The drop in numbers sleeping rough is also due to the hard work of the Housing First – Focus Ireland/Peter McVerry Trust Regional Service that covers Dublin City centre. Staff of this partnership service, which was launched in October last year, are out on the streets every night engaging with people sleeping rough – or at risk – to get them off the streets, linked to support services and ensuring that all the available emergency beds are used.
The Housing First approach sees these specially trained staff work with the person to access their needs and link them with other services they may require (basic medical help, GP, Rehab, mental health, advocacy advice, support and information ).
The Housing First approach specifically aims to get people off the streets and into a home as quickly as possible, rather than supporting them long-term in emergency accommodation until they are ready to move on as was the more traditional approach. Once in their own home, the individual is provided with intensive support that is often required by people who have been sleeping rough to help them address any issue and sustain the tenancy. This approach has had a 90% success rate worldwide, but requires access to homes to work.
Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy Mike Allen said: “The continuing problem of people sleeping rough is very worrying and unacceptable. In December, the Government finally woke up to the fact that is unacceptable to have large numbers of people forced to sleep rough. If it was unacceptable in December it must remain unacceptable in April. We must look at why this is happening.”
“The Government has refused to raise rent supplement levels despite the fact Focus Ireland has continuously highlighted that rent supplement falling behind rising rents is the single largest reason people are losing their homes and becoming homeless.”
He added: “Rents rocketed by 17% in Dublin and increased nationwide by various amounts. Families and single people struggle to keep up with their rent but in the end many lose this battle and become homeless.”
“The government is ringing-its hands on the issue but the simple truth is it could stop more people losing their homes tomorrow with the stroke of a pen by raising rent supplement to match market rents. They have taken some action which has helped some families and is welcome, but it is clear that not enough is being done.”
Focus Ireland said that rough sleeping remains a serious problem due to the continued lack of access to housing to help support people to move on from being homeless. The charity also called for improved access to a range of suitable emergency accommodation and move on housing all year round, in order to end long term homelessness and the need to sleep rough. For instance, some people sleeping rough who do not use drugs have said they will not stay in some hostels due to widespread drug use and with nowhere else to go they are forced on to the streets.
Others may sleep rough due to mental health issues, in this situation Focus Ireland is highlighting that these vulnerable people need more than a sleeping bag, they need access to supported housing. If these homes are not provided the mistakes of the past will be repeated where people get trapped living long-term in emergency homeless accommodation – sometimes for years – where it is much harder for them to overcome the difficulties they may have in areas such as mental health, addiction and long-term unemployment.
Meanwhile, the charity urged anybody who is concerned about their accommodation to get in touch with its services immediately and contact details for local services are at focusireland-old.gdlindev.net.
Media Contact: Roughan Mac Namara: 086 85 15 117