Minister targets 600 long-term homeless for housing

‘We will work with local Simon communities, NGOs and the local authorities,’ says Murphy

The Take Back the City group led a peaceful protest against the housing crisis on Saturday, September 23rd in Dublin. Video: Kathleen Harris

 

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has claimed that about 600 “rough-sleepers” and long-term homeless adults will be housed over the next three years under a national initiative.

This is despite the fact the same programme, Housing First, has fallen 33 per cent short of its targets announced for Dublin in 2016.

Under the programme long-term homeless adults, including chronic rough sleepers with a range of complex needs, are placed directly into social housing with a “wrap-around” of supports such as healthcare, counselling and help with managing a home.

It is an alternative to placing homeless people into hostels and other temporary accommodations to prepare them for permanent housing. It was pioneered in Canada, where 95 per cent of participants remained in their home a year later. The initiative was piloted in Dublin from 2011.

The Government’s Rebuilding Ireland plan on housing in 2016 committed to tripling the targets for Housing First in Dublin “from 100 tenancies currently to 300 tenancies in 2017”. To date 200 have been delivered in the capital.

A dearth of one-bedroom dwellings has been identified as an obstacle to full implementation of the initiative by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive.

Under the latest plan 600 new Housing First tenancies will be delivered between now and 2021 in Cork, Galway, Limerick and in rural areas of Kildare, Meath and Wicklow. The scheme was jointly announced by Mr Murphy and Minister for Health Simon Harris on Wednesday

Asked whether 600 social dwellings would be sourced for the programme in the next three years, Mr Murphy replied: “We have been working with NGO sector and local authorities to ensure everyone buys into this. Over the next three years we will work with local Simon communities, NGOs and local authorities.”

The objective is to ensure an adequate supply of dwellings for the programme would be sourced.

Reaction to initiative

Despite the potential problems, the chief executive of the Peter McVerry Trust Pat Doyle described the plan as a possible “game changer” for long-term homeless, single adults.

“The success of the [national] Housing First model is very much dependent on the availability of housing. And in particular appropriate housing for single people; in recent years that has been hugely challenging,” he said.

“I very much believe that with increased housing output particularly by local authorities, approved housing bodies as well as the ramping up of schemes to tackle vacant homes we can look forward to greater availability of housing to ensure the strategy works.”

Dr Sam Tsemberis, the founder of the Housing First movement in Canada, was in Dublin to support the initiative, which he said it was important not to see as daunting.

“All we’re doing is a small thing. Taking a few hundred people who have been homeless for a long time, who have a lot of problems, a lot of challenges and putting them in a home,” he said.

“We’re not solving the housing crisis. We’re not solving the income disparity problem. We’ll take a very tiny percentage of the existing social housing stock and provide them in a new way, rather than making people wait years in a queue that they could never manage.”