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Dublin: 14 °C Thursday 23 October, 2014

How is Dublin spending 100 times more on hotels for homeless people than in 2010?

Families accommodated in hotels are forced to share cramped living quarters and boil eggs in kettles to eat.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

IN 2010, THE Dublin Region Homeless Executive spent just €13,814.95 accommodating homeless people in hotels.

Last year, it spent €1,356,281. That’s 96 times higher than the 2010 total.

In 2014, Council sources say it could climb as high as €4,000,000.

The last few years have seen a surge in the number of people becoming homeless, and without sufficient emergency accommodation to support them, the Council has been forced to provide beds for them in hotels.

The most recent count in the middle of June put a total of 143 families in hotels paid for by DCC, with 299 dependent children within these families.

But what’s causing this surge?

A change in the nature of homelessness

The core problem, according the Threshold chief executive Bob Jordan, is the recovery in the rental market, combined with low levels of social housing.

As rents increase, they have outstripped poorer families’ ability to pay them. With a healthy supply of tenants willing to pay more for the same accommodation, many have been forced out of their homes and onto the streets.

The result, Jordan says, is a change in the very nature of homelessness in the capital.

Where once it was dominated by single men who had been in institutional care and were dealing with alcohol or drug dependency, now families are finding themselves without shelter.

“There’s double digit rent inflation, and the people at the lowest end of the market can’t afford it and are being pushed out.”

Up to 80,000 tenants are in receipt of rent allowance, he explains, which has been reduced since 2010.

The market has overtaken the rent supplement, which is out of kilter.

The only solution, argues Jordan, is the provision of more social housing.

“Behind all of this is the issue of housing supply. Very few new local authority units are coming on stream, so many people went into the private market, which was fine then, but now it’s not.”

At the moment, six people enter the homeless services every day, while two people leave. Jordan describes the situation as an “acute crisis”, and it doesn’t show any signs of improving.

As a stop gap measure, the Department of Social Protection has teamed up with Threshold to offer top-up payments to keep families in their homes. Eight payments have been approved so far, with a further 12 under review.

Life in a hotel

Joe Moon has worked with the Sacred Heart conference of the St Vincent de Paul in Clondalkin for 15 years.

He helps families who are accommodated in a hotel in the area. Conditions are often cramped, with entire families in single rooms, along with their possessions.

He described the first time he went into one of the rooms to TheJournal.ie.

“The first thing that hit me was the smell. The body odour, the stale smell…all their belongings in cases – it was complete chaos.”

Those living in hotels have to renew their accommodation arrangements every week, and can be moved out by the hotel during busy periods, making family life extremely trying.

“They have to take their stuff out, and they might be let back to that hotel, but they never know precisely where they’re going. They’ve no security of tenure.”

There are no appliances in the rooms, with tenants resorting to desperate measures to keep hunger at bay.

“Some of them boil eggs in the kettle, so they eat quite a lot of eggs.”

Diet is a recurring problem. With no facilities, many subsist on take-aways and non-perishable foods. The VdP help them families come up with stop-gap measures such as keeping milk and butter in a sink full of water.

The novelty factor of staying in a hotel soon wears off, Moon says.

“If you’re going off to a hotel, it’s great. It’s a novelty. But what do the kids do in the evening? There’s no place to play. There’s car parks and busy roads. They’re stuck in the room or playing in the corridors.”

One family he works with consists of a single mother with her three daughters aged 4, 10 and 12. Her son is 14. They share one room with two double beds in it.

Usually the mother sleeps with two of her daughters in her bed, and a third on a lilo, but occasionally, one of the daughters sleeps in the same bed as the 14-year old boy.

“You’ve no privacy. Privacy is out the window. You’ve an adult there who has to change and shower and they’re all in the room.”

Other families have children studying for state exams. Study, Moon says, is impossible in conditions like this.

It’s very humiliating. It hurts their dignity. They feel like they’re dumped on the pile.

According to Jordan, “There’s an acute housing crisis that is impacting on the most vulnerable people. The fact is that families with two or three children are being made homeless…their issue is an income problem.”

If you feel you’re at risk of losing your home, Dublin Region Homeless Executive urge you to get in contact as soon as possible on Freephone 1800 454 454. Getting in touch early is vital. There is help available.

Read: ‘The homeless tsunami has arrived’ as Dublin numbers reach new high>

Read: Dublin City Council to get Nama hotel to use for homeless families>

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