Record number sleeping rough in Dublin, says Simon Community

Charity counts finds 168 sleeping on street and 60 more on Merchants Quay cafe floor

Sleeping rough in Dublin. The Simon Community’s chief executive has defended the charity’s €7.55m salary bill for 2015. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Sleeping rough in Dublin. The Simon Community’s chief executive has defended the charity’s €7.55m salary bill for 2015. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

There is now a record number of 228 rough sleepers in Dublin city centre, according to the Simon Community.

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has described as “shocking” figures from the charity which show that 168 people were sleeping on the streets on Tuesday morning. A further 60 were sleeping on the floor of the Merchants Quay Ireland night cafe in the city.

The charity’s chief executive, Sam McGuinness, expressed support for the Government’s action plan on homelessness but said implementation was needed urgently.

“With emergency beds across the city operating at full capacity each night, rapid housing and support for individuals is urgently needed to get people off the streets to safety and to tackle the bottleneck in emergency accommodation,” he said.

“People have become trapped in the revolving door of homelessness and the short-term measure of emergency accommodation has become long-term,” he added.

He said “ninety per cent of our residents” were “deemed long-term homeless [longer than six months] and a shocking 59 per cent” had been homeless for more than two years.

Recent figures from the Department of Environment showed “a 29 per cent increase in the number of adults and 39 per cent in children accessing emergency accommodation, in the past year”, he said.

Last year also saw a 32 per cent rise in rough sleeping – despite the provision of 195 extra emergency beds, he said.

Tendering process

Addressing the issue of administrative costs in the charity sector, Mr McGuinness said salary scales for senior staff in the Dublin Simon Community were benchmarked against prevailing rates in business.

He told The Irish Times he would welcome a reduction in the number of homeless charities in the city, from the present tally of 16, and attributed the current proliferation to the open tendering processes employed by local authorities for the supply of services.

The charity’s annual report for 2015 showed that Dublin Simon received €7.03 million in 2015 from statutory agencies, while payment to its 203 staff came to €7.55 million – averaging at approximately €37,000 each.

The five senior staff at the charity are paid over €70,000 a year, while Mr McGuinness’s income remains unchanged at €93, 338.

Dublin Simon had “to be at least as good as any normal, medium-sized organisation”, he said.

The charity needed “to hire professionals. The marketplace is not going to say ‘well, okay, Simon Community wants some person and you advertise that job for €50,000’. There’s nobody going to apply for it when they see the spechousing crisis.

Mr Coveney said emergency accommodation would be increased in advance of the winter.

In addition, 200 new rapid-build homes would be available before the end of the year.