Dublin Simon chief says homelessness policy now ‘in the worst of times’
Number of rough-sleepers in Dublin up 88% compared with same period last year
Sam McGuinness of Dublin Simon Community: “The only break point is organisations like ourselves trying to get more housing capacity, but it’s only a pee-hole in the snow.” Photograph: Frank Miller / The Irish Times
There is “currently no chance” the Government’s target of eliminating long-term homelessness by 2016 will be met, the chief executive of the Dublin Simon Community has said.
Sam McGuinness, speaking at the publication of the charity’s annual review, said the homelessness and rough sleeping crises were “worse than ever”.
Number of rough-sleepers in Dublin up 88 per cent . The homeless fella on the street can’t afford private-rented accommodation. Rents are going up, rent allowance caps are coming down all the time, there’s no extra accommodation being provided. It’s a complete logjam.
“The only break point is organisations like ourselves trying to get more housing capacity, but it’s only a pee-hole in the snow. Think about it – there are 1,400 people currently in emergency accommodation and 50 per cent of them have been there three, four or five years. About 80 per cent of them are there are over a year. So I can’t see them ending long-term homelessness by 2016. Last year the most they housed in Dublin from the homeless list was 900.”
In February, Minister of State for Housing Jan O’Sullivan published a homelessness policy statement committing the Government to ending long-term homelessness by 2016. It was welcomed by housing organisations as a credible target, though they warned resources would have to be targeted at the goal without delay.
Mr McGuinness said yesterday: “In the second quarter of this year nearly 10,000 people called the homeless helpline. Over 5,000 people presented at the central placement unit. So we have a picture for the State that it has become significantly worse and it’s getting worse again.
“I would love to hear from the Minister how she’s going to get those numbers down. [Homeless] people have wounded lives. The longer you are on the street the less nourishment you get. There is no consistency in what you eat, what you drink. The sleep you’re getting is not great. When some behave badly it’s because of all those things.”
The Dublin Simon Community conducts weekly “street counts” of the number of people sleeping rough in the city centre between Jervis Street, Amiens Street and Harcourt Street.
The count has found a 66 per cent increase in the first half of this year (January to June) compared to the same period in 2012. The increase for July to September this year was a “staggering” 88 per cent compared with the same period last year, said Mr McGuinness.
“The September count, carried out on September 3rd, of 85 people sleeping in one night is very frightening and the highest since we started our regular count some years ago.”
He said the long-term impact of rough sleeping on a person was profoundly damaging, mentally and physically.
He said in the absence of energetic policy on housing provision by Government, Dublin Simon had moved into “housing development”. Yesterday’s event was hosted in a newly-refurbished home in the Cabra area of Dublin, which would provide a permanent supported home to over 20 people.