Coveney criticises authority after families sent to Garda stations

Minister ‘annoyed’ at failure to provide beds having given ‘blank cheque’ to executive

 Simon Coveney said the Dublin Region Homeless Executive had been given an almost “blank cheque” to ensure no family was ever left without an emergency bed. Photograph: David Ryder/Reuters

Simon Coveney said the Dublin Region Homeless Executive had been given an almost “blank cheque” to ensure no family was ever left without an emergency bed. Photograph: David Ryder/Reuters

 

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney was “very annoyed” that 12 families, including more than 30 children, were directed to Garda stations this week as no emergency accommodation was available, he said on Friday.

He said it was “unacceptable”. The Dublin Region Homeless Executive had been given an almost “blank cheque” to ensure no family was ever left without an emergency bed.

Speaking on Kildare FM radio, Mr Coveney said: “It is true that a number of families were not accommodated this week in emergency accommodation. I am very annoyed about that because we have given almost a blank cheque to homeless executive in Dublin to make sure there is enough emergency accommodation.

“We’ve added 200 emergency accommodation spaces and there’s another 150 on the way. So there is no excuse for families having nowhere to go at night-time.”

He said he was “deeply concerned” about children who were homeless. He wanted to move families out of homelessness and to improve conditions for those who were homeless. He had set July 1st as a target to end the use of commercial hotels for homeless families.

Builders were working 24 hours a day on shift-work, he said, to get “family hubs” – to which families will be moved from hotels – open by the end of next month.

“So we are making progress on some of the targets that I’ve set. The current situation in relation to families that are homeless is totally unacceptable.”

The most recent figures on child and family homelessness show there were 2,708 homeless children in 1,302 families across the State at the end of April, of which 2,262 children in 1,091 families were in Dublin.

Asked about this the Minister said the number of families in hotels, had fallen by about 150 between March and April.

He wanted to work with the housing charities and would prefer that they work with him rather than criticise his department’s efforts.

‘Hundreds’ of calls

Mike Allen, head of advocacy with Focus Ireland had said his staff made “hundreds” of calls to hotels on Tuesday night and were unable to source rooms for the 12 families.

“Well I’m sorry but Mike Allen needs to be part of the solution here too,” said Mr Coveney. “We are in partnership here with Focus Ireland. I am providing very significant resources to local authorities, as well as approved housing bodies, as well as homeless charities. We work with them. I speak to Mike Allen on a pretty regular basis. He expressed frustration this week and he’s right . . . because it is not an acceptable situation but we need to work together to ensure that we do have enough spaces. We are all in this together.”

Local authorities were, he said, “embarking on a huge social housing build programme. We are going to add 47,000 houses to the social housing stock in the next four years.”