Homelessness crisis will cost €140m next year, council says

Campaigners say ‘zero’ progress has been made in stemming the flow of people and families becoming homeless this year

 The Peter McVerry Trust said   2017 had been ‘by far the worst year of the crisis’. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times   The Peter McVerry Trust said   2017 had been ‘by far the worst year of the crisis’. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

The Peter McVerry Trust said 2017 had been ‘by far the worst year of the crisis’. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times The Peter McVerry Trust said 2017 had been ‘by far the worst year of the crisis’. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

 

The four Dublin local authorities are braced for an increase in homelessness next year with spending in the area forecast to be more than €140 million.

Dublin City Council, through the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), leads the provision of homeless services on behalf of Fingal, Dún- Laoghaire-Rathdown and South Dublin county councils.

Though it budgeted to spend almost €119.2 million on homeless services this year, a revision mid-year saw the budget allocation rise to €134 million. The council now estimates it will need some €142.4 million next year.

A total of 1,007 families with 2,046 were accessing emergency accommodation in Dublin in January but the figure had increased to 1,138 families with 2,416 children by last month.

The figures were included in a briefing document provided to Dublin City Council’s Budget Consultative Group – on which 11 councillors sit – for consideration before the council adopts its budget for 2018 next month.

“Despite moving families who were being accommodated in hotels and B&Bs, there continues to be a high presentation of new families seeking emergency accommodation every month... the numbers presenting for emergency accommodation continues to increase therefore it is not envisaged there will be any significant fall in spending for the foreseeable future and in reality until such time as housing supply (permanent) levels out across the housing market,” the document says.

The proposed extra spending on homeless services was described as “unrealistic” by homeless campaigners, who say “zero” progress has been made in stemming the flow of people and families becoming homeless this year.

‘Family hubs’

The Peter McVerry Trust said it anticipated that by the end of this year the official homeless figure will have increased “by a massive 25 per cent”.

It said 2017 had been “by far the worst year of the crisis”.

“The jump in the revised figure in 2017 to the 2018 is unrealistic based on the fact the Government has made almost zero progress on the flow of people into homelessness,” a spokesman for the trust said. “About 18 months ago we were averaging seven cases of homelessness a day. Now the average for 2017 is 15 per day, nationally but with the bulk in Dublin.”

The increase in the expected spend on homeless comes despite the provision of “family hubs”, which was expected to reduce the spend on emergency accommodation for families.

Hubs are purpose-provided emergency accommodation which have laundry and cooking facilities, as well as play and study space for children. They are cheaper than private emergency accommodation, such as hotels and B&Bs.

The DRHE plans to have move about 500 families out of hotels and into 13 such hubs by next February.

Emergency accommodation

The number of families coming into homelessness in Dublin also continues to increase, with August having the highest monthly figure this year with 102 “newly” homeless families up from 99 in July, and from 62 in February – the month with the fewest newly homeless families. There were 89 newly homeless families in Dublin in September.

It emerged last week that the DRHE had paid hotels and B&Bs some €23.9 million for emergency accommodation in the six months to the end of June. In addition, Dublin City Council paid out €6.1 million to commercial emergency accommodation providers in the same period.

The €23.9 million paid out to hoteliers for the first six months of this year compares to €38.9 million to hoteliers for all of last year. The budget for payments to hotels for the entire year is €49 million.