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Simon Coveney: Hotels will no longer be used to house homeless families by July

Using hotels to house families has risen hugely in recent times.

Image: Marc O'Sullivan

HOUSING MINISTER SIMON Coveney has reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring that hotels will no longer be used to house homeless families by July of this year.

Speaking this morning at the launch of the High Park family hub, Coveney said that people in his department and others were working very hard in order to meet this ambitious goal.

“A lot of people are working very hard to make sure that we meet that target,” Coveney told TheJournal.ie.

When questioned specifically whether he thought the goal of no longer using hotels to house families (except in very limited circumstances) could be met by July, Coveney said:

I think so, I think so. I mean it’s putting a lot of pressure on people but I think so.

He said this goal would be achieved through a combination of rapid-build housing units, HAP tenancies and facilities like High Park.

High Park is a family focused supported temporary accommodation. Operated by the Respond! Housing Association, it provides secure accommodation for homeless families with dedicated onsite staff and key workers.

Coveney said that a number of similar units will begin to open over the next number of months and families will transition from hotels to these units.

High Park

Situated in an old Magdalene Laundry building in spacious ground off the Grace Park Road in north Dublin, High Park is designed as a more suitable alternative for hotels and B&Bs.

There are currently 82 occupants staying at the facility in total. This includes 38 adults and 44 children (33 families in total).

The majority of these families are single parent families, however a number of couples with children are also staying at the facility.

Families are given wrap-around support during the time they spend at High Park, and are appointed staff who work with them and help them secure long term alternative accommodation.

NO FEE RESPOND 9 From left to right: Declan Dunne, CEO Respond! Housing TDs Roisin Shortall and Dessie Ellis, Minister Coveney and John O'Connor, chair of Respond! Source: Marc O'Sullivan

A number of residents staying at the facility spoke to TheJournal.ie on condition of anonymity.

They said that the accommodation was comfortable, clean and well-kept and the staff were very supportive.

There is a curfew of 11pm at the facility. Alcohol and drugs are strictly prohibited and children must be supervised at all times.

The residents who spoke to TheJournal.ie all said that the accommodation was far more preferable than staying at a hotel or B&B. But they expressed a wish to be able to move onto their own independent homes as soon as possible.

The centre began operating just under three months ago. In that time, four families have moved onto longer-term accommodation.

Speaking today, Declan Dunne – CEO of Respond! – said that the purpose of the centre was for families to have a place to stay while they waited for homes.

“Our principal focus has been houses. Permanent, sustainable houses for people to live their whole lives,” he said.

This model here is very simply a humanitarian response for us to do something in the short term while people are waiting for homes

Hotels

The use of hotel and B&Bs to house homeless families has skyrocketed over the past number of years and the homelessness crisis has worsened in Dublin worsened.

Latest figures from the Housing Department show that there 1007 homeless families with 2,046 children staying in emergency accommodation in Dublin in January. The overwhelming majority of these were staying in private hotels or B&Bs at a huge cost to the state.

Dublin City Council spent €40 million trying to house homeless families in hotels and B&Bs in 2016 alone.

Coveney first committed to ending the use of hotels to house homeless families by the middle of this year last summer in the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland Housing Action Plan.

Charity experts expressed serious doubt that this being possible at the time, however Coveney today remained resolute that the goal could be achieved.

Read: Over 198,000 empty homes in Ireland: UK officers turn them into housing – would that work here?

Read: There are 27 empty houses for every one person in emergency accommodation

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