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A new homeless family hub run by a private company is set to open in Dublin next week

After months of delays, Lynam’s Hotel in Dublin is due to open this week as a family hub.

COUNCILLORS HAVE EXPRESSED reservations ahead of the opening next week of new group family homeless accommodation which will be run by a private company.

After months of delays, Lynam’s Hotel in Dublin is due to open next week as a family hub. The former hotel is situated on Dublin’s O’Connell Street.

The hub will have 38 family units which will accommodate up to 92 people when it opens.

It will also have communal areas and kitchens, play areas for children, full laundry facilities, rooms for visiting supports and meeting room facilities.

Unlike the majority of other family hubs in Dublin, Lynam’s Hotel will be operated by a private company – Graray Limited.

A spokesperson for the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive confirmed to TheJournal.ie that Dublin City Council would be leasing the building from the owners, Graray Ltd.

Graray will also have the responsibility of running the hub as part of a contractual arrangement with the DRHE.

The Focus Ireland family housing action team (HAT) will work directly with the families staying at Lynam’s in order to help them access proper supports.

Graray Ltd was set up in November 2016.

Latest records (up to May 2017) show that Theresa Fitzsimons is the sole shareholder of the company.

Up until June of last year, Fitzsimons was the only director of Graray Ltd. She stepped down as director of the company that month and was replaced by Raymond and Grace O’Connor.

Another company was also set up around the same time as Graray, called Graray Hotels Limited.

Latest records show that Graray Hotels Ltd is owned by the holding company Posado Limited (also set up around this time).

Posado is owned by Raymond and Grace O’Connor.

Raymond and Grace also own R&G Administration Limited – which manages two homeless accommodation facilities at the Bonnington Hotel and on the North Circular Road in Dublin.

TheJournal.ie revealed yesterday that R&G Administration made profits of close to €3 million in 2016.

Reservations

When asked, a number of councillors who sit on Dublin City Council’s Housing Committee expressed reservations around Lynam’s Hotel being run by a private company.

The majority of councillors questioned had reservations around any company making a profit off homelessness.

“I have concerns that any homeless service is run by a profit-making company,” said Sinn Féin councillor Daithi Doolan, chairman of the committee.

“For years services have been run by Dublin City Council and funded by central government,” he said.

He said his worries were centred around private companies being “less accountable” to the homeless people and families involved, ideas echoed by party colleague Janice Boylan.

“My concern is [around the question] ‘are private companies able to provide the care that families need?’,” she said.

Boylan said she would prefer if the facility was managed by a charity instead of a private company – as the majority of others are.

These concerns were echoed by Eilis Ryan of the Workers Party, Independent councillors Christy Burke and Cieran Perry, and Patrick Costello of the Green Party.

Fine Gael councillor Norma Sammon said she had no problem with a private company running a family hub, as long as the service provided was up to scratch.

“We need emergency accommodation so whatever way we can get it we should,” she said.

Once the people involved follow the rules and there is proper oversight.

All operators of family hubs must ensure staff are vetted and have to adhere to child protection policies. The DRHE also provides training to private emergency operators if needed.

All of the councillors questioned said they had no issue or concerns with the staff or the private company directly, but the majority said that they would prefer to see established homeless charities running the new hub.

“If they do the job and do it in a dignified way with respect I won’t have any issues with them,” said Christy Burke.

Family hubs

A total of 15 family hubs were opened in Dublin last year, as part of the push to get homeless families out of highly unsuitable commercial hotels.

The majority of these are run by not-for-profit housing associations and homeless charities (like the Peter McVerry Trust; Respond!; the Salvation Army, etc).

However a number – like the Bram Stoker Hotel in Clontarf, Lynam’s, the Townhouse on Gardiner Street, and the Viking Lodge on Francis Street – are run by private companies.

These facilities are known as PEA (private emergency accommodation).

In response to a query from TheJournal.ie looking for the names of all the private companies running family hubs in Dublin, a DRHE spokesperson said:

We do not currently publish the names of private emergency operators for reasons of client confidentiality and commercial sensitivity.

Lynam’s Hotel

Prior to becoming a family hub, Lynam’s Hotel was previously used as emergency accommodation for homeless families.

It made headlines in the summer of 2016 when a number of families staying there were informed they would have to leave as it was being put up for sale.

original (8) People protesting outside Lynam's Hotel in Dublin in 2016 Source: Cormac Fitzgerald

The vacant hotel was put up for sale in September with an asking price of €4 million, through the agent CBRE on behalf of receivers appointed by Nama.

It was sold to an unnamed investor in November 2016. Reports from then indicate that it was sold for €6 million – well above the asking price.

By April 2017, Dublin City Council had indicated that it had taken out a five-year lease on the hotel for it to be used as a family hub. The council also undertook the cost of significant refurbishments on the hotel.

The hotel made the headlines again in June 2017, when homeless activists from Inner City Helping Homeless highlighted that families had been staying in the building while refurbishments were ongoing, despite it not having a proper fire certificate.

Commenting ahead of the opening of the family hub, ICHH CEO Anthony Flynn said that more transparency was needed around private operators of emergency accommodation.

“The fact that we now have reliance on private operators to provide service provision to the homeless sector is totally unacceptable,” he said.

“A clear lack of transparency regarding payments to private operators has been evident for a long time now regarding homeless services.

We must ensure that those who are operating the private services on behalf of the DRHE are fully vetted and Garda clearance is provided.

A DRHE spokesperson refused to disclose the cost of the lease or the terms of the service contract with Graray, citing commercial sensitivity reasons.

TheJournal.ie made attempts to contact a representative for the directors of Graray, but no response was received at the time of publication.

Read: Over 8,500 people spent Christmas Day in emergency accommodation

Read: Is handing out free food and clothes to homeless people really the best way to help them?

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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