Family hubs are ‘normalising’ homelessness, rights body says

Human Rights Commission says three month limit needed

Family hub accommodation risks normalising homelessness in Ireland, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) which will be published today says .

The report was critical of the uneven quality of new family hub accommodation, and the standard of facilities provided to families.

The commission said while most hubs have access to cooking facilities, cooking utensils are not provided for families. Strict rules are in place over visitors entering the accommodation, and around the use of communal space.

The commission’s report said there is a risk families will be “institutionalised” in the hub accommodation.

The Dublin Homeless Regional Executive (DHRE) said currently there are 18 family hub sites in use or undergoing work. The hubs were introduced to move families out of hotel and B&B emergency accommodation and provide basic cooking, laundry and communal areas for residents. Sites for hubs have also been identified in Cork, Limerick and Kildare.

Emily Logan, chief commissioner of the IHREC said “having met with families affected, heard their experiences of homelessness, and visited one of the family hub sites, it is important that we do not normalise family homelessness in Ireland.”

Ms Logan said “the primary policy response must be to ensure that every family has access to suitable permanent accommodation.”

The IHREC report said new legislation should be introduced to limit the amount of time a family can be left availing of emergency B&B or hotel accommodation to three months.

The report criticised the current policy where families and individuals must find their own emergency B&B or hotel rooms each night. The report said that Traveller and migrant families find it difficult to book private hotel or B&B rooms, due to language barriers and negative stereotypes. “The Commission is of the view that given the level of distress experienced by families by virtue of their homelessness, families should not have to source their own emergency accommodation”, the report stated.

Anthony Flynn, head of a Dublin outreach group Inner City Helping Homeless said the quality of homeless hubs varies between facilities. "Some of the hubs are a rebranding of emergency accommodation already in existence" he said.

“The fear is people will be in these hubs for two or three years” Mr Flynn said.

Former city centre property Lynam’s Hotel is one building being converted into a family hub, after Dublin City Council took out a lease on the building.

In June it was revealed one floor in the property was being used as emergency accommodation, while construction work on the building was still ongoing.

Following an inspection of the property by the Dublin Fire Brigade several safety concerns were raised. A spokeswoman from the Dublin Homeless Regional Executive said the former hotel has not been used as emergency accommodation since the inspection.

In May 4,922 adults were homeless in Ireland, according to Department of Housing statistics, an increase on the 4,760 who were recorded as homeless in January 2017.