herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

Former Lord Mayor Christy Burke: 'Open barracks and convents for homeless people'

Former Dublin Mayor Christy Burke (pictured) said remarks by Dublin City Council boss Owen Keegan were 'undemocratic'
Former Dublin Mayor Christy Burke (pictured) said remarks by Dublin City Council boss Owen Keegan were 'undemocratic'

Former Lord Mayor of Dublin Christy Burke wants the Government to immediately open army barracks and convents to house the homeless.

Mr Burke’s comments come after Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly met city councillors yesterday to discuss the homeless and housing crises.

The Independent councillor said the Government needs to “think outside the box”.

“There may be spaces in barracks and convents which can accommodate homeless people. It’s better than people walking about the street and sleeping on sofas,” he said.

“It’s not the answer, but in the short term it is security.”

Crying

Mr Burke said he dealt with 41 housing and homelessness cases at his clinic on Tuesday night.

“I’m blue in the face with housing and homelessness. I didn’t get out of my clinic until 10.40pm last night. People are just looking at you crying.

“I have never seen it in such a state in 30 years. We are powerless. There’s nothing I can do but make representation.”

Mr Kelly said councils had a vital role and responsibility in delivering housing and homelessness services.

He thanked councillors for approaching the meeting constructively and with an atmosphere of cooperation.

“We addressed specific concerns around homelessness services funding and the funding of vacant social housing units,” he said.

“I would like to reiterate my commitment and that of my department to continue to fund these programmes for Dublin City Council and that work should continue on this basis.

“Refurbishing vacant units is an excellent use of taxpayers’ money – they are the quickest way of providing social housing and the more of it that is to be carried out by DCC, the better.”

Green Party councillor Ciaran Cuffe said he was pleased with the minister’s response to the meeting.

“It was a useful meeting. The city council is waiting for funding from the Department of the Environment,” he said.

“Minister Kelly said that he would welcome any proposals from Dublin City Council for any buildings we own that can be used for housing.

“It’s frustrating that the Government has only realised the gravity of the housing crisis.

“The housing crisis is real and urgent, and I was pleased with the minister’s response.”

The city council has identified more than 100 houses for purchase and 100 for leasing. This is in addition to the 100 specifically for homeless people from an overall figure of 521 to approved housing bodies.

In the Dublin City Council area, some 500 empty houses have been returned to use this year, while work is currently being done on 183 units and planned for another 257.

The council is also examining its portfolio of commercial and industrial properties that might be suitable for conversion for use as appropriate emergency accommodation.

Scourge

Mr Kelly said that while some progress has been made in recent months, a lot more needs to be done and more quickly.

 “I am determined to end the scourge of involuntary long-term homelessness by the end of 2016,” he said. Th Government has committed massive resources to this cause and we are starting to see the fruits of that commitment. 

“I am again today urging local authorities and all housing stakeholders to continue their invaluable work in this area.”

The direction to local authorities mandating that 50pc of all housing allocations must go to homeless and vulnerable households has so far yielded almost 530 homes for that purpose.

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