Dublin businesses seek to stop 155-bed homeless hostel

Avalon House on Aungier Street would be State’s largest facility for rough sleepers

Avalon House on Aungier Street. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Avalon House on Aungier Street. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Businesses on Aungier Street, Dublin, are to take legal action to stop the opening of the State’s largest homeless hostel for rough sleepers at Avalon House.

The Peter McVerry Trust and the Dublin Region Homeless Executive intend to take over the backpackers’ hostel, above a branch of Starbucks cafe, and use it to provide emergency accommodation for 155 homeless adults.

A lease on the building has been signed by the trust, and the facility is due to open in January. However, local businesses say they will seek a High Court injunction to stop it going ahead.

“As it stands the immediate area already has four residential units for homeless people,” said Ronan Lynch, who owns the Swan bar, opposite Avalon House.

“We have had no end of problems with the existing Peter McVerry facility on the street, which is substantially smaller, and it has become a very challenging environment for businesses to operate in, with anti-social behaviour including drug dealing and begging.”

Mr Lynch said he accepted the need for homeless services but said there was an over-concentration on Aungier Street.

“Aungier Street is punching way above its weight in this regard. I would also have to say that I can’t understand the concept of putting that number of people in one facility, from the point of view of their own welfare as well as everyone around them. Putting 155 people in one unit is creating a ghetto.”

‘No consultation’

Mr Lynch said there was no consultation with local businesses before the lease was signed for the hostel.

“It has all been very cloak and dagger, there has been no transparency, no public procurement process. Legal action will have to be taken due to the way this whole deal has been conducted.”

Eddie Kavanagh, who runs the Costcutter shop on Aungier Street, said he has had to call ambulances for residents of the neighbouring homeless facilities who have collapsed inside his shop or on the street outside.

“I am the third generation of my family trading on the street, and going back years there was always the Salvation Army, the YMCA, DePaul Trust and Cross Care. I am totally in favour of the work they do, and I would know a lot of their staff and residents,” he said.

“But more recently other organisations have come in, and they turf out their residents at 8.30am and there has been an increase in problems: people urinating outside the shop, shoplifting, threats to staff, drug dealing and I’ve had to ring ambulances for them. I sometimes feel like I’m a security guard, a politician and a social worker all in one.”

‘Ongoing risk’

Dublin Region Homeless Executive director Eileen Gleeson said the facility was central to providing accommodation to meet the needs of single rough sleepers.

“There is an ongoing risk to vulnerable people who have no access to emergency accommodation and they are at risk of sleeping rough.”

The Peter McVerry Trust said it did not wish to comment on the new facility.

Avalon House has been run as a tourist hostel since the early 1990s, but will close in the coming weeks before reopening as a hostel for rough sleepers. Starbucks, which has operated on the ground floor of the building since 2017, will continue trading.