Former Georgian hotel to be converted into homeless shelter
Longfield’s Hotel building was bought by Dublin City Council for €7m in 2007
Numbers 9 and 10 Fitzwilliam Street Lower. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Plans to convert a former hotel on Fitzwilliam Street, opposite the ESB headquarters in Dublin 2, into a homeless hostel, have been approved by Dublin city councillors.
The council bought Longfield’s Hotel, two adjoining Georgian buildings about 100 metres from Merrion Square, for almost €7 million in 2007 with the intention of using it for homeless accommodation, and has since spent almost another €1 million on security and maintenance for the empty building.
The new hostel will be run by the Simon Community as a “supported temporary accommodation” facility. The shelter will accommodate 30 men and women, but its opening will not result in an increase in homeless places in the city as Simon plans to close its premises on Harcourt Street when Longfield’s is ready. Simon has been providing a supported service at Harcourt Street since 2004, but the building is no longer fit for purpose.
The new shelter would be run under the Pathway to Home model, which provides accommodation for people with care needs relating to mental health; substance abuse; people fleeing domestic violence; ex-offenders; or people leaving care. People can stay in the unit for up to six months.
A report by city council chief executive Owen Keegan said the council received 63 submissions in relation to its plans to convert Longfield’s Hotel for use as a homeless hostel, one of which was “fully supportive”.
Several raised concerns about potential antisocial behaviour, and the safety of pedestrians and property owners. The “temptations” close to the location, including a “gambling casino”, public houses, nightclubs, and shops selling alcohol, were highlighted.
Others said the development would be detrimental to the conservation of the south Georgian core of the city and would negatively affect its tourism potential.
Concern the development would “negatively impact on the proposed ESB HQ redevelopment” was also raised, Mr Keegan’s report said. However, a spokesman for the ESB said it had not made any submission to the council in relation to the hostel development.
Fine Gael councillor Paddy McCartan asked for the decision to be deferred and consideration be given to selling the building which he said was worth €3.5-€4 million.
Lord Mayor Christy Burke said this was a human rights issue and human beings couldn’t be left “lying in the gutter”. The property had been earmarked for homelessness for years but the council “didn’t have have the balls to do it”, Mr Burke said.
Independent councillor Mannix Flynn said the council, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive and Simon had failed in their obligation to inform the local community resulting in them being “annoyed and frustrated”. Kate O’Connell (Fine Gael) said the hostel was not a good use of public money .
Sinn Féin councillor and chair of the council’s housing committee Críona Ní Dhálaigh said Ms O’Connell’s comments were “a complete disgrace”. The facility was badly needed in the area and would be “money well spent” she said.
Labour councillor Dermot Lacey said he was supportive of the project. “We need to address the reality that Dublin has a homeless crises.”
Local Fianna Fáil councillor Jim O’Callaghan also supported the hostel. “No part of the city no matter how affluent it is can turn its back on the homeless,” he said.
Kieran Binchy (Fine Gael) said it would be hypocritical to oppose the hostel given the current crisis, and he was supporting it, but said local businesses had legitimate concerns.
Ruairí McGinley (Ind) said if the council was serious about addressing homelessness it had to put its assets behind this proposal.