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Why is Dublin City Council closing a 100 bed homeless hostel? It's complicated

16 people staged a protest at the Brú Aimsir on Thomas Street overnight. Here’s why…

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

THE CEO OF the organisation that runs a homeless hostel on Dublin’s Thomas Street has added his voice to the chorus of charities and activists calling for the facility to be kept open.

A group of 16 people – former long-term residents of the Brú Aimsir, supported by protesters from the Irish Housing Network group – staged a protest at the hostel overnight.

Gardaí attended the scene after the occupation protest began – and while protesters described the situation last night as calm, one former resident said they were being asked to leave by the officers, and had been told there were no longer any places for them.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie this morning, a member of the protest group said they intended to maintain their action, and would be speaking with management of the centre later today.

What’s going on? 

It was initially announced that the hostel, which can cater for 100 people each night, would close on 30 April.

After a number of groups, including the Peter McVerry Trust, spoke out, the date for the final closure was pushed back to 31 May. However, Dublin City Council said yesterday a ‘wind down’ process would take place leading up to that date.

Residents who had been staying there recently said they were shocked to be told there were no beds for them when they called the Council’s freephone number for emergency accommodation yesterday.

It’s understood some 50 of the 100 beds have been closed, and that 30 of the remaining beds are reserved for people who have entered into an arrangement for medium-term accommodation – meaning there are now only around 20 emergency beds available at the Brú Aimsir.

Dublin City Council has yet to respond to a request for comment from TheJournal.ie today.

Cold weather

The hostel was opened as part of Dublin City Council’s annual Cold Weather Initiative to provide winter beds for the homeless last November.

The building is part of a complex in Dublin 8 owned by the Digital Hub agency – the board of which are appointed by the Minister for Communications. The Council entered into a lease arrangement with the Digital Hub in November to open the hostel over the winter period, and it’s planned the building will be sold once the facility closes down.

The Council said in a statement earlier this week that it was opened last winter with “the specific purpose to have additional capacity over the winter period as a humanitarian response to the major challenge of rough sleeping”.

The statement added that “it was never intended that Brú Aimsir would be a permanent facility”.

aimsir A press shot of the interior of the hostel, distributed by Dublin City Council last November. Source: Sorcha Donohoe

Crosscare

Speaking to this website today, the CEO of Crosscare – the Archdiocese of Dublin agency that runs the hostel day-to-day – said that while he understood the facility was only ever meant to be a temporary measure, closing it down made no sense.

“Our view is we would like the place to stay open,” Conor Hickey said.

“It was a cold weather initiative, but things are getting so bad that the idea of closing 100 beds doesn’t make any sense.

We provide good quality services, and we hope that sense will prevail and the service will stay open.

One of the protesters, who gave her name as Carrie, said last night that she had been offered a place in another hostel but that the “conditions are a disgrace” in the other facility.

“The staff here are really good,” she added.

It’s normally a really good hostel – the staff here are great.

Around a hundred protesters, including some former residents of the hostel, took part in a march from Thomas Street to Dublin City Council’s offices at Wood Quay this morning.

Carrying placards and chanting “more homeless beds” the protest finished up under a banner of the Proclamation at the Council HQ.

Speaking ahead of their meeting with hostel management today, one of the protesters still in the Brú said they planned to remain at the facility to bring attention to the issue.

Responding to a query yesterday on whether alternative accommodation would be found for residents at the Brú, the Council said it had “an active programme of property sourcing in place”.

It added:

Efforts are ongoing in this regard and DCC is committed to improving its emergency capacity in this respect.

Is the problem getting worse? 

The latest rough sleeper figures for Dublin, released last week, show the capital’s homelessness problem is not improving.

The Council’s homeless executive confirmed that 4,262 of its beds were occupied on the night of the spring count this year, including adults and children. That compares with 3,766 beds occupied on the night of the latest winter count, in November.

At least 102 people were confirmed to be sleeping rough in Dublin in the latest figures, with a further 69 people using the Merchants Quay Ireland Night Café.

As Homeless charity Focus Ireland pointed out last week, that means a minimum of 171 people were without a bed on the night the count took place.

Read: Former residents occupy homeless hostel in protest over its closure >

Read: Still no government and the capital’s rough sleeper numbers are up again >

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