Civil Defence called in to assist with homeless crisis

Homeless in temporary beds climbs to 1,600 with rough sleeping up 50%

At five minutes to four on a rain-sodden afternoon, Tomas’s search for a bed begins. Originally from Slovakia, Tomas has been homeless for four years in Dublin. Video: Carl O' Brien

Sat, Feb 8, 2014, 01:00

The Civil Defence has been called in to help authorities cope with Dublin’s growing homeless problem by providing additional emergency beds.

The number of homeless people in emergency shelters or temporary beds on a nightly basis has climbed to in excess of 1,600 in the capital, while numbers sleeping rough have increased by 50 per cent since last April, latest figures show.

On average, six people who are new to homeless services are presenting on a daily basis in Dublin.

A new 20-bed facility has been opened at the Dublin headquarters of the Civil Defence on Wolfe Tone Quay to help provide extra emergency beds to meet the growing demand.

There had been calls in the run-up to Christmas for the Army to be called in to assist with the problem.

Alice Leahy, co-founder of the homeless charity Trust, welcomed the latest move, but said many vulnerable people were still unable to get a roof over their heads. “These are just temporary measures. What happens when these are taken away in a couple of months’ time? We simply don’t have enough accommodation now, even during this awful weather,” she said.

Escalating problem
Authorities say the escalating problem is the result of growing demand for assistance and a shortage of affordable or available accommodation in the private rented sector.

In a statement, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive confirmed that all temporary accommodation was operating to full capacity and all homeless service providers were reporting increased demand.

Some families have been housed in hotels by authorities, due to shortages of suitable alternative accommodation.

On average, almost 20 homeless people a night who were trying to get an emergency bed through its free-phone service were unable to get one, despite an extra 100 temporary beds brought on-stream since November.

Welfare cuts
Service providers such as Dublin Simon and Focus Ireland say there is an emerging housing crisis, as they support people who have lost accommodation due to rent increases and welfare cuts.

“The need for accommodation for those with nowhere to go, and whose existence has become harsh and dangerous, is the highest we have ever seen,” said Sam McGuinness of Dublin Simon.

Catherine Maher of Focus Ireland added: “Many families we’re seeing are people who previously had no problem paying rent and don’t have drug or alcohol problems.”

Jan O’Sullivan, the Minister of State with responsibility for housing, has pledged to prioritise a “housing first” approach to homeless, according to her spokesman. He said the Minister is drawing up plans in conjunction with local authorities which will set targets for the provision of extra housing.

In addition, a new housing assistance payment is due to be piloted later this year.