Homeless executive denies families sent to Garda stations due to lack of emergency options

Dublin Region Homeless Executive, which runs family evening placement, says it has not run out of emergency accommodation


A stock picture of the Garda badge logo on Dublins Pearse Street Station. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday January 16, 2019. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
A number of Garda sources said homeless people were still coming to Garda stations, but they were men on their own. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), which runs the family evening placement service for the homeless, has denied claims by Sinn Féin that homeless families are being sent to Garda stations to sleep because there is nowhere else to house them.

DRHE director Mary Hayes said while she could not answer questions on the cases of homeless families allegedly sent to Garda stations cited by Sinn Féin, at present there was no need for homeless families in Dublin to sleep in Garda stations.

“It’s not our policy to send families to Garda stations, we’re not at that point, we haven’t run out of emergency accommodation,” she said. “It’s not the case we are referring people to Garda stations. Are families going to Garda stations because we don’t have accommodation for them? No.”

Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty said that under the Government’s watch, families were being told by local authorities that “where they need to go to stay safe is to the local Garda station”. He specifically said the DRHE had no accommodation for homeless families.


Mr Doherty said his party colleague, Dublin Midwest TD Mark Ward, had received a letter from South Dublin County Council about a family, made up of one adult and two children, who are homeless.

“The council have told the family that they have no emergency accommodation for them. The Dublin Regional Homeless Executive has told the family that there is no available accommodation for them, and this is before the eviction ban is even lifted,” he said.

Asked about the matter, South Dublin County Council said in a statement on Thursday evening: “It is not our policy to advise any homeless or potentially homeless clients to present to a Garda station and all efforts are made to find a suitable placement for clients in need of emergency accommodation.”

In 2018, DRHE took over responsibility from Focus Ireland for running the family evening placement service. In the 12 months to October 2018, Focus Ireland said it had referred 199 homeless families to Garda stations. By April of 2019, DRHE said no families were being referred to Garda stations and four years on, Ms Hayes said that situation was unchanged.

She said homeless families were being housed in emergency situations in hotels or “congregated” settings, meaning accommodation with some shared areas.

Separately, the DRHE also said it was “monitoring the situation with regard to new family entries to emergency accommodation and will act accordingly”.

“The [eviction] moratorium gave a much needed breathing space over the winter months to plan for additional emergency accommodation and we have identified some additional capacity, which will come in over the coming months.”

A number of Garda sources said homeless people were still coming to Garda stations as they had nowhere else to go. However, the Garda members who spoke to The Irish Times said the cases they were aware of involved people on their own, usually men, rather than families.

“Some of them are mentally ill and you’d get people with alcohol and drug issues so you never know if they are even in contact with the homeless services who could sort them out with somewhere to stay,” one said.

Some said the practice of allowing homeless people to sleep in Garda stations was discouraged by Garda management, including local management at stations, on health and safety grounds. However, the same sources said most gardaí “would find it very hard to turn them away”.

One said outreach staff from homeless services, who use a van to distribute food and hot drinks, often visited Garda stations to assist homeless people sleeping on chairs and benches.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times