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1,000 homeless given sleeping bags each year

DUBLIN City Council is handing out close to 1,000 sleeping bags to the homeless per year, the Herald can reveal.

The shocking figure lays bare the serious problem of homelessness in the capital with agencies admitting that the issue is not being tackled.

According to figures obtained by the Herald, Dublin City Council's Homeless Unit issues an average of eight sleeping bags per day -- with the figure sometimes reaching the teens.

The council has come under fire over the figures, with councillors today claiming the policy of handing out sleeping bags only encourages people to sleep rough.

And council management have today accepted that the programme is "not a satisfactory response to homelessness".

Lisa Kelleher, of the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, said: "Sleeping bags are available from four homeless service providers if required and if requested by people who maybe rough sleeping.

"Dublin City Council purchases sleeping bags to ensure that there is adequate supply if people require or request them, these are sourced at a competitive unit price."

She added: "It is important to note that the experience of rough sleeping and presentation to emergency homeless services is dynamic and can change on a daily basis."

However, Independent Councillor Mannix Flynn -- who has spent the past few weeks regularly visiting the homeless -- told the Herald that the policy being pursued by Dublin City Council is "flawed".

"How can we as a council stand over the handing out of sleeping bags when this just adds to the problem by encouraging people to sleep rough? It is not solving the serious issue of homelessness on our streets.

"It's also been a problem, there's no doubt about that, but the City Council has a responsibility to ensure it is acting effectively and the policy it is pursuing in this regard is not achieving what is needed."

And Joyce Loughnan, CEO of Focus Ireland, told the Herald: "It is totally unacceptable that anyone has to sleep rough on the streets or remain trapped for long periods in emergency accommodation like hostels.

"The reality is that the answer to effectively tackling homelessness is to provide homes -- with support in place as required -- so people can move on from being homeless."

hnews@herald.ie