Sharp fall in rough sleeper numbers welcomed by agencies

Charities attribute 40% decrease in people sleeping on streets to emergency bed supply

Charities have welcomed a decrease in the amount of people sleeping on the streets. Photograph: The Irish Times

Charities have welcomed a decrease in the amount of people sleeping on the streets. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

A sharp decline in the number of people sleeping rough in Dublin has been welcomed by homelessness agencies.

They warned, however, that the drop was due to an increase in emergency beds, rather than a greater provision of housing.

The latest “rough sleeper count”, conducted on March 27th/28th, found a 40 per cent drop in the number of people sleeping on the streets since the last count in November – from 184 to 110. However, when adults in the Merchants Quay Ireland night cafe (MQI) are included, the number without access to an emergency bed fell by just 25 per cent in the same period.

The MQI is an “overflow” facility for people who cannot access emergency hostel beds. It provides roll-out mats on the floor.

Figures published on Friday show, in addition to those sleeping on Dublin’s streets, there were 64 people in the MQI night cafe (174 in total without access to emergency beds) in the spring count.

Last November, 184 people were found sleeping rough and 50 adults were counted in the night cafe in (234 in total without access to an emergency bed).

Compared with spring last year, when there were 138 rough sleepers and 57 in the night cafe (195 in total) Friday’s figures represent a 25 per cent drop in adults on the streets, and a 10 per cent drop in the number of adults without access to an emergency bed in 12 months.

Since November, an additional 200 emergency beds were put into the system in Dublin.

The Peter McVerry Trust, which operated an emergency facility of 200 additional beds during the extreme cold weather in February, welcomed the latest figures attributing the decrease to the “intensive, assertive engagement” by outreach workers.

‘Assertive’ approach

The “extreme weather” saw at least 70 people, who had not been engaging with homeless services, come in for shelter and subsequently engage with services.

The Trusts’s chief executive Pat Doyle said the “assertive” approach had to be maintained. He commented in February that outreach teams perhaps needed to ask people sleeping rough not what they need, but where they could be brought for the night.

“The reduction is a clear result of a high intensity and assertive programme of engagement with people sleeping rough to encourage them into shelter and housing,” he said.

De Paul attributed the reduction in numbers directly to the 200 additional beds. Its director of services, David Carroll, said while numbers on the streets had gone down, it must be remembered many more were now in hostels, most having to leave early in the morning to spend the day on the streets.

“We continue to advocate, where possible, for partial access beds to be changed to 24 hour access supported temporary six-month beds so that vulnerable homeless people have a degree of security and support and not stay in homelessness for longer than necessary,” said Mr Carroll.

“We also advocate for greater consideration to be given to housing options for single homeless adults.”

Tribute

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy welcomed the fall in numbers sleeping rough.

“I want to pay tribute to the commitment and dedication of the local authorities and the NGOs working in this area and the services they provide to people experiencing homelessness,” he said.

“The past few months have been challenging for those working in the sector with increasing demands for their services and not least dealing with a number of extreme weather events. My department is committed to working with the statutory and voluntary bodies to implement enduring solutions to addressing homelessness”.

Since November at least five people sleeping rough have died on the streets – in Dublin, Kerry and Cork.