The Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) will be seeking cheaper rates in hotels to “take advantage” of cancellations and reduced bookings from tourists as a result of coronavirus.
Eileen Gleeson, director of the executive, said it was a "silver lining" of the disease that there would be greater availability and lower rates in hotels.
“Every cloud has a silver lining and this certainly is an opportunity for us to negotiate better prices and we will certainly be taking advantage of it.”
The executive paid one hotel more than €4 million for providing homeless accommodation last year, while 19 hotels were paid more than €1 million each.
Spending on homeless accommodation in Dublin increased by almost 20 per cent last year to €170 million.
Additional buildings around the city have been identified by the executive for potential use as isolation beds for homeless people who may contract or be at risk from the illness, also known as Covid-19.
Ms Gleeson asked councillors to support the use of these buildings for homeless people, a measure that may be resisted by local communities.
“It will mean us having to open buildings in places,” she said. “We need your support in ensuring we can open them.”
Approximately 100 beds had been identified for possible use in the event of a virus outbreak in a homeless facility.
Ms Gleeson said it would be preferable to use “own door” or apartment-style accommodation in such cases. “We might need to use own door units for isolation purposes. We are working flat out to make sure we do have a robust plan for the coronavirus. The main thing is that there isn’t a panic.”
The threat of the disease was a “much bigger crisis than we have faced before”, she said, but the executive was adept at continuity planning for crisis events.
“We are constantly dealing with crisis in the provision of homeless services, we constantly have to have business continuation plans, we constantly have to have a means of responding if tonnes of snow falls out of the sky.”
She said the executive was liaising with the Department of Health and HSE and was circulating all information to homeless service providers.
Speaking to councillors at a housing policy meeting, Ms Gleeson urged caution around the use of language when speaking about the risk of coronavirus affecting the homeless population.
“It is very important we don’t stigmatise homeless people by pointing them out as having coronavirus,” she said. “We need to be very careful in the language we use around the risk of homeless people versus the general population experiencing an outbreak of the coronavirus.”