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Simon Community 'desperately worried' as High Court leaves future of Dublin homeless hostel uncertain

The facility opened before Christmas 2016 and has been used as emergency temporary accommodation for rough sleepers.

Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated at 10.10pm

DUBLIN SIMON COMMUNITY has expressed “disappointment and concern” for the homeless residents of a Dublin City centre-based hostel following a ruling by the High Court today.

In his judgment Mr Justice Donald Binchy held that a decision by Dublin City Council to allow Carman’s Hall, Francis Street, in Dublin’s Liberties be used and converted into a hostel was in material contravention of the area’s local development plan.

The facility opened before Christmas 2016 and has been used as emergency temporary accommodation for rough sleepers.

It has a capacity of 65 beds and has been run by the Simon Community and the Salvation Army.

Speaking about the rule, Sam McGuinness from the Dublin Simon Community said: “Our concern is for the 51 residents, some of whom have been with us since we opened our doors in December 2016 and who have nowhere else to go. We have met today to tell them about the ruling and there is a high level of anxiety throughout the service.

Since Carman’s Hall began operating, we have not only provided beds to many vulnerable adults, we have provided vital wraparound care such as mental health support and education to help them rebuild their lives and enable them to move on from homelessness.

Local objections

Local residents through the Carman’s Hall Community Interest Group, Michael Mallin House Resident’s Association and community worker Elizabeth O’Connor brought High Court proceedings claiming DCC were not entitled to convert the building into a hostel for the homeless.

They alleged the council’s decision of 28 October 2016 authorising change of use and refurbishment of the building is unlawful and in breach of the planning laws and should be quashed.

The residents want the building, owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin, to be used as a community centre.

They claim the hall was used as a community centre for many years before it was closed in 2013 over accessibility and fire safety concerns.

The council opposed the application and argues the hostel was opened to deal with the “humanitarian crisis” of rough sleepers in Dublin.

Despite objections from locals, McGuinness emphasised the need for services like Carman’s Hall.

“Services like Carman’s Hall were an urgent response by Dublin City Council to ensure that people were not suffering our streets,” McGuinness said.

“Throughout Dublin, the four local authorities are actively working with organisations, like Dublin Simon Community, to tackle this crisis head on and provide life saving services to the many adults and children who are relying on us.

However, the ever rising flow into homelessness means that there is a real challenge to keep up with the demand for emergency beds.

“As we face into the cold winter months, we are desperately worried about the fate of the 51 residents and the many more who are without the safely and security of having a roof over their head.”

In his judgment, Mr Justice Donald Binchy said that it was accepted that the hall was converted into a shelter for the homeless in order to deal with what is an emergency situation.

However, he found that DCC’s decision was in material contravention with objectives as set out in the local development plan for the south inner city.

Consideration, he said, was not given to claims that the hostel would result in an over concentration of such facilities for the homeless in the one area and the effects that would have on the local economy and community.

In the circumstances the court was satisfied to quash the orders made by DCC in respect of the building.

The Judge said he was conscious of the impact the court’s decision will have on the homeless situation.

He adjourned the matter to allow the parties consider his judgment to 8 November.

The hostel will remain open pending any decision made by the court on that date.

With reporting by Hayley Halpin

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Aodhan O Faolain

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