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Thursday 23 March 2017

Council bill to house homeless at shocking €1m a week

Two homeless men on Grafton street. Picture: Arthur Carron
Two homeless men on Grafton street. Picture: Arthur Carron

Dublin City Council is paying hotels, hostels and other emergency accommodation providers almost €1m a week to shelter the spiralling numbers of homeless in the capital.

The spend for the first nine months of the year was €34.85m, or €968,148 a week. That far outweighs last year's total annual bill of €25.3m.

The near-€1m weekly spend comes as a family revealed the turmoil of living in a hotel as the rental market spirals beyond their means.

Eoin Donegan (28) has been living in a hotel on the south side of Dublin since September with his partner Aisling Freer (28) and their two children, Adam (8) and Rebecca (6).

Recession

"After five years in rental accommodation, our landlord was forced to sell during the recession so we had to leave," said Mr Donegan. "High interest mortgages haven't helped us either.

"A house in south Dublin will cost €1,800 a month, and that's not taking into account the queue of 70 people down the road trying to get it.

"I knew of a house that was originally going for that but ended up going for €2,400.

"The new rental caps (proposed by the Government last week) are complete nonsense and useless. I would really like to see security for leases for people who are renting", he said.

Mr Donegan is currently seeking employment while his partner works full-time in the retail sector, often working anti-social hours.

"Sometimes I can do a few bits and bobs but my partner finds the late hours difficult.

"In some ways we are lucky to get some food provided but Aisling is unlucky because she would come home having worked 1pm-9pm and therefore would miss dinner all the time.

"We have no cooking equipment so most of the time we live out of a chipper, which is tough."

There are 42 people living in 22 rooms across two floors in the hotel in which Mr Donegan and his family are living.

He said they "are on a priority list" and that they have no idea how the future is going to play out as they focus on day-to-day challenges.

Ms Freer said that "the kids are beginning to notice" the living conditions, especially in the run-up to Christmas.

"It is really difficult, and the food situation is awful all of the time. In the beginning it was really tough with changing places with schools and the like for the kids, but luckily they go to school now in the area."

The most recent figures show that there were 1,026 families homeless in Dublin, including 2,110 children.

In 2015, the combined spend on hotels and other private emergency accommodation was €25.3m. Last year, the city council paid city hoteliers €16.6m to provide accommodation for the homeless.

The new figures show that €26.6m in payments has been made to hotels for the first nine months of this year outstripping the 2015 total by €10m. The amount individual hotels receives remains confidential

The figures show that the payments to hoteliers in the quarter between the start of the July to the end of September is the highest ever recorded at more than €10.3 million.

Owners

In addition, the council paid emergency accommodation providers, including B&B and hostel owners, €8.18m.

The budget for the entire year for payments to B&B and hostel owners along with other emergency providers is €9.1m and the actual spend in that area will easily top that based on the spend to the end of September.

The figures show that between January and September of this year, a total of €69 million has been spent on a variety of homeless services by local authorities in Dublin.

The projected budget for the year is €103.25m, more than double the spend in 2014.

Last month, the city council agreed a budget of almost €120m to be spent on homeless services next year.

Included in the 2016 spend is a €1m outlay on a freephone helpline service for the homeless in Dublin.

The new report by the Homeless Executive shows that the spend on the helpline to the end of September was €653,270.

The figures show that the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) is budgeting to spend €1m this year on Merchant's Quay Nite Cafe and €822,249 on the cafe's services for the first nine months.

An additional €1m is budgeted to be spent on Focus Ireland's Open Access Coffee Shop with €803,193 spent on the service between January and the end of September.

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