Just quarter of refugee housing offers judged suitable, Red Cross says

Original 25,000 offers of vacant homes and spare rooms reduced by changes and vetting

Nearly 6,000 offers of vacant homes or spare rooms have been deemed suitable to house Ukrainian refugees to date out of 25,000 offers of accommodation, according to latest Irish Red Cross figures.

The humanitarian charity has been attempting to process the large volume of pledges of accommodation for refugees from the public following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February.

To date, 1,900 vacant properties offered have been deemed suitable and sent to Department of Children and Equality officials to place Ukrainian refugees into. Another 4,000 spare rooms in shared homes have been deemed suitable but have not yet been sent to the department, as in many cases hosts were taking in a family with children and so needed to be Garda-vetted.

While the Irish Red Cross received 25,027 offers of housing, nearly 4,000 pledges were later withdrawn by homeowners. A further 1,000 people could not be contacted and nearly 900 properties had been offered twice.

Long-term commitment

The pledges include 5,764 vacant homes and spare rooms in 17,669 shared homes, where refugees would live with the homeowner.

In 156 cases, people who had offered housing to the Irish Red Cross had already taken in Ukrainian refugees informally by the time they were contacted about their offer.

Some 559 people contacted said while they could not commit to housing refugees long term, they could take in individuals or a family on an emergency basis for a month if required.

Amid difficulties contacting people who had signed up to offer housing by phone, the charity emailed 17,000 of those who had pledged accommodation last weekend. It received more than 9,600 responses of which 2,200 people indicated they wished to withdraw their offer of housing.

Processing ‘challenge’

The charity initially prioritised contacting people who had offered vacant properties and is currently aiming to have made at least one call to all homeowners offering spare rooms by this Thursday.

Speaking on Monday, Irish Red Cross interim general secretary Liam O'Dwyer said processing the large number of offers had been a "real challenge".

The reason homeowners needed to be contacted was to confirm the details they had provided the charity online about their property were correct, he told Newstalk’s The Hard Shoulder.

“When we talk to people some pledges are withdrawn because people think again, people think ‘oh God six months I won’t go ahead with it’, or circumstances change,” he said.

Where a homeowner was hosting refugees with children in spare rooms, the host would need to be Garda-vetted, which Mr O’Dwyer said was “going to take time”. An Garda Síochána had committed to turn around applications for vetting within seven days, he said.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times