Travellers facing homeless crisis due to housing scheme failure – campaigners

No any addition to Traveller accommodation in Cork in nearly 30 years, says campaigner

Members of the Travelling community protesting over accommodation in 2014. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Members of the Travelling community protesting over accommodation in 2014. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Travellers are facing a homelessness crisis in Cork due to the failure of a Government-established scheme to provide sufficient accommodation, according to campaigners.

Breda O’Donoghue of the Cork Traveller Visibility Group said the five-year Traveller Accommodation Programmes (TAPs) which have been in place since the late 1990s had failed to deliver badly-needed Traveller accommodation.

Ms O’Donoghue said the reality when it came to the programmes was one of “patchy implementation” with insufficient targets for accommodation provision at the outset.

She added that many local authorities were failing to properly carry out the yearly audits to establish how many Traveller families need housing.

“There hasn’t been any addition to Traveller accommodation in Cork in nearly 30 years. The last addition was in 1990 and that was the Carrigrohane Straight – now we have had two replacements sites at Hollyhill and Mahon where the Traveller halting site was but they replaced existing sites.

“The day that the families went into St Anthony’s Park in Hollyhill there was a surplus of five families and if you take somewhere like Spring Lane in Blackpool that was built in 1989 for 10 families, there are now 40 families there, living in appalling conditions,” she said.

Ms O’Donoghue was speaking following a protest outside Cork City Hall which was hosting a meeting of the National Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee.

According to Ms O’Donoghue, there are more than 500 Traveller families in Cork city alone, most with an average of four or five children, resulting in many families having to live in the back yards of their parents’ homes as they seek to find accommodation locally.

“The Trespass Act, which was brought in the early 2000s, has prevented Travellers from being nomadic and living at the side of the road and with only four sites being opened in Cork city in the last 30 years, what we have is a crisis now in homelessness here among the Travelling community.”

John O’Sullivan of the Traveller Consultative Committee said that given the failure of the TAPs to deliver homes for Travellers, the only option for families was standard general housing through the choice based letting (CBL) scheme rather than Traveller specific houses.

In CBL social housing is let by being openly advertised, allowing qualified applicants to ‘bid’ for or ‘register an interest’ in available homes.

Speaking about the scheme last year a Government spokesperson said, “Applicants have to act on their own initiative to respond to adverts and bid for dwellings. This approach offers more choice and involvement for applicant households in selecting a new home, thereby reducing the likelihood of a refusal.”

However Mr O’Sullivan said,“Travellers don’t have the internet skills to source houses under the CBL and equally Travellers find it very difficult to access private rented accommodation here through the Housing Assistance Payment scheme so they are left living in the back yards of their families’ homes without facilities.”

Mr O’Sullivan said that Travellers were calling for the establishment of a national Traveller accommodation agency which would ensure the adequacy of local authority TAPs and which would intervene if local authorities failed to deliver on accommodation targets in a timely manner.