Dublin homelessness services to cost €213m next year

Pandemic having ‘disproportionate impact’ on city, says council chief Owen Keegan

The Simon Community serving food and hot drinks to homeless people and rough sleepers on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin, 2017. Photograph: Dave Meehan

The Simon Community serving food and hot drinks to homeless people and rough sleepers on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin, 2017. Photograph: Dave Meehan

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The cost of providing homeless services in Dublin is expected to reach €213 million next year, an increase of more than €150 million since the crisis hit six years ago.

Dublin City Council is raising its budget for emergency accommodation and other services for homeless people by more than €22 million next year. Spending on homeless services is the largest single element of the council’s €1.079 billion budget for 2021, which will be presented to councillors this week.

The council’s 2015 budget for homelessness represented a substantial boost in funding after several years of cuts to the service, with an increase from €45.8 million to €59.2 million. The additional money was designed to address a sudden rise in homeless numbers, and an emerging trend of families presenting as homeless.

However, this proved insufficient, and by the end of 2015 more than €70 million had been spent, largely providing rooms in hostels and hotels.

In an attempt to resolve the problem, the council upped its budget for the following year to more than €91 million, but again this was not enough and the eventual spend for 2016 topped €103 million.

The 2017 budget was €119 million – representing almost 15 per cent of the entire budget for running the city. Again this proved inadequate, and by the end of the year €134 million had been spent. Funding for homeless services for 2018 was set at €142 million, and €150 million in 2019, but the largest increase was for this year, with a budget of €190 million.

However, the council projects that, due to additional costs, partially linked to the coronavirus pandemic, including the need to provide full-day services, the final tally for 2020 will top €200 million for the first time.

Council losses

Total losses and costs to the council’s revenues directly due to the pandemic are expected to exceed €33 million next year.

By the end of this year the pandemic will have hit the council’s coffers to the tune of just under €42 million. The council is not expecting a rapid turnaround in its fortunes in 2021, with costs associated with managing the pandemic in the city projected to exceed €11 million and the loss of income – largely due to a the reduction in business activity in the city, both office and retail – to reach almost €22 million.

The largest losses are expected to be in parking meter collections, which are projected to drop by more than €12 million. Tolls from the East Link bridge are expected to be down €1.9 million, leisure centre charges down almost €1.6 million, clamping charges €1 million and planning application fees down €500,000.

Council chief executive Owen Keegan said the pandemic was “having a disproportionate impact on the economy of Dublin”, particularly the city centre.

“The pandemic has also provided an extraordinary boost to remote working and encouraged the wholesale relocation of what were previously city centre-based employees to the detriment of its economy and a boost to online retail activity, again to the detriment of physical retail activity.”