herald

Monday 5 December 2016

Eight families with children put into adult night shelters

Cedar House, where a woman and her two young children spent a night
Cedar House, where a woman and her two young children spent a night

Eight families with children had to be put into emergency accommodation designed for use by homeless adults this month.

In some cases, children were given blow-up beds to stay the night in adult facilities.

Dublin City Council said authorities were managing "a critical and unprecedented situation" in relation to the demand for homeless services on a nightly basis.

The council said that after spending a night in emergency accommodation, each of the eight families was contacted by a member of the Family Homeless Action Team.

It works with Dublin City Council's Homeless Central Placement Service to provide more suitable, alternative accommodation.

The council said the families were accommodated in secure and defined areas that are separate from other adult users.

Crisis

"The placement of families into adult emergency accommodation in Dublin occurs only as a late-at-night last resort," the council said.

A spokesman said this happened only when no other accommodation can be found in the city through family accommodation or commercial hotels.

"The reason for providing this response is to avoid the risk of a family sleeping rough," the council said.

Homeless levels in Dublin remain at crisis point.

In the week from April 18 to 24, homelessness authorities provided accommodation for 888 families with 1,786 children.

Of the 888, 218 were put up in homeless accommodation while 670 were accommodated in commercial hotels.

"This is against the backdrop of the four Dublin local authorities doing everything possible to house families, secure private rented tenancies and pre- vent homelessness," the council said.

From January to March this year, the four local authorities delivered a record number of tenancies, 413, for any quarter recorded to date.

The council also said there was a specific response procedure in place for families to provide a secure environment for children and to prevent the risk of rough sleeping.

The Irish Times revealed how in one case a mother and her two youngest children were taken into Cedar House, a facility for women with "support needs", including addiction issues.

At the same time, the father and three older children were accommodated at Haven House, an adult male hostel, on blow-up beds.

In a separate case, two children and their mother were accommodated in the staff room of Cedar House on blow-up beds.

The woman's sister and her children stayed the night at Haven House.

On a separate night, a family with nine children were taken into a designated room and slept on roll-out mattresses.

This happened at George's Hill, a supported housing facility run by Focus Ireland.

Earlier this week, new Housing Minister Simon Coveney said he wanted "a non-political" approach to tackle the country's growing housing crisis and help build 25,000 homes a year for the next decade.

It emerged in a report from the Housing Agency that 230,056 homes were vacant nationwide.

The State has been spending €46m a year on hotels for families who do not have a home.

Unacceptable

Labour councillor Dermot Lacey said it was simply unacceptable for families to be living in adult emergency accommodation.

He also hit out at the bureaucracy that is holding up the construction of social housing units.

"People living in these conditions, it's just unacceptable," said Mr Lacey.

"The fact of the mater is there is a simple answer to this crisis - build more social housing.

"Until we smash the power of the bureaucrats at the Custom House, this problem isn't going away."

Mr Lacey said councillors have been pleading for the last 18 years for the restoration of a social housing policy, but those pleas have gone unreported and ignored.

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