The State's largest homeless hostel for single adults is to be opened in Dublin 2 in a Victorian building currently occupied by a branch of Starbucks cafe and a backpackers' hostel.
The Peter McVerry Trust and the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) intend to take over Avalon House on Aungier Street for emergency accommodation for 155 homeless adults.
Avalon House has been run as a tourist hostel since the early 1990s, but will close in the coming weeks before reopening as a hostel for rough sleepers. Starbucks, which has operated on the ground floor of the building since 2017, will continue trading.
The 155-bed facility will be used to consolidate four existing Peter McVerry services which have a total of 70 beds. Another 85 beds will be provided as part of the DRHE’s “cold weather strategy” to take rough sleepers off the streets during the winter.
However, it is understood the beds will be retained after the winter season for “supported temporary accommodation” where homeless people generally stay for up to six months while more permanent housing is sought for them.
DRHE director Eileen Gleeson said the facility, which will open in January, was central to providing accommodation to meet the needs of people who are sleeping rough. The Peter McVerry Trust has already signed a lease on the property, she said.
“There is an ongoing risk to vulnerable people who have no access to emergency accommodation and they are at risk of sleeping rough.”
Independent councillor Mannix Flynn said it was unacceptable that Ireland's largest homeless hostel was being opened without any consultation with the business or residential community.
“No consultation process has taken place with residents or businesses in the area or anyone in the community. This hostel is close to a national school and there are already a number of homeless services within the area.”
There was a “saturation” of homeless facilities in the area, Mr Flynn said, but the principal problem was the “secret manner” in which the Avalon House deal had been conducted.
Failure to consult the local community had resulted in protests against previous facilities, which might have been avoided if there was a transparent process, he said.
“Avalon is going to have communities up in arms. If you do it transparently, engage in a process, I think you’ll get a much better response, but going down the route of signing contracts of bringing people in without informing people locally will only cause problems.”
Ms Gleeson said there were three times more single people coming into emergency accommodation on a monthly basis than the DRHE were able to move on to permanent homes. For this reason the DRHE had to act quickly when buildings became available.
“Unfortunately it’s not sustainable for us to consult in relation to delivering facilities because we need to respond quickly,” she said. “In this market we go after everything and we avail of every opportunity and that’s what has happened with Avalon.”
A spokesman for the Peter McVerry Trust said it did not wish to comment.
In a statement Starbucks said: “There are no plans to close the Starbucks store at 55 Aungier Street in Dublin.”
The hostel will have a separate entrance to the coffee shop, on Whitefriar Place.
Avalon House was built in 1872 and was originally a medical school. Its distinctive terracotta facade was added as part of an extension in 1905.