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Over 130 people located by council's rough sleeper app four months since launch

The Mendicity Institute believes the app cuts rough sleepers out of the conversation

Image: Leah Farrell

AN APP THAT allows the public to alert homeless services to the exact whereabouts of rough sleepers in Dublin has located 134 people in the four months since its launch.

From 18 December to 18 April, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) received 287 alerts from members of the public through its rough sleeper app, according to figures released by the executive.   

The outreach service, delivered by Dublin Simon Community, met and engaged with 134 people upon responding to these alerts.

The public can also alert outreach teams to the location of someone they see sleeping rough through the DRHE website.

Dublin’s oldest homeless charity, the Mendicity Institute, believes the app should also be tailored to people who find themselves sleeping rough and wish to contact services. 

Currently, the app and website ask users to report a rough sleeper. 

The DRHE said the app allows for greater accuracy when it comes to alerts from the public, “enabling our outreach teams to reach people in need that much faster”.

The number of alerts received through the DRHE website over the same period was 208. Likewise, the outreach team engaged with 114 people upon responding to these alerts.

However, the DRHE said that the figures above do not relate to unique individuals and there is a lot of duplication “as understandably multiple alerts can be sent for the same person or location”.

‘The same way you would report a loose horse’

CEO of the Mendicity Institute, Louisa Santoro, said a lot of people sleeping rough who avail of the charity’s services were “horrified by the app” after it launched last December. 

“Having the app directed at members of the public implies a rough sleeper is a completely inanimate object,” said Santoro. 

“It further disenfranchises a community that is already disenfranchised,” she said, adding that the app in its current form “has members of the public reporting rough sleepers in the same way you would report a loose horse”.  

The smartphone app asks users to play their part and “alert us to rough sleepers”.

Santoro said this language is “disempowering” and “almost cuts people sleeping rough out of the conversation completely”. 

She says the app should be a tool that rough sleepers can use to say “‘I’m going to identify myself to an outreach team so that I can access services that I need’”. 

The primary means of contact for accommodation for anyone sleeping rough is through outreach teams operating daily on the streets or by calling the central placement service freephone 1800 707 707 which also operates every day. 

Santoro said she was also concerned that the monthly homeless figures still don’t include rough sleepers.  

The last official rough sleeper count was taken by the DRHE over a week in November last and 139 individuals were encountered, a number the executive acknowledges varies from day to day. 

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“While there is a core group of people who may regularly sleep rough, and may or may not engage with services, there is a larger group of people that may move between rough sleeping, using emergency accommodation on a more regular basis, sleeping in insecure accommodation, and or staying with family or friends,” a spokesperson for the DRHE said.

There are 4,093 adults homeless in Dublin according to the latest figures from the Department of Housing. March’s figures show a continuing decline with 8,060 people in emergency accommodation around the country last month.

Mendicity, alongside other homeless charities, is calling for the Government to reintroduce the eviction ban, fearing that the underlying problems in the housing market will re-emerge quickly now that the ban is lifted. 

Focus Ireland CEO Pat Dennigan said an extension of the ban for six months would allow breathing space for many tenants who face a difficult time both in their personal and professional lives.

Meanwhile, the vaccination programme is to be rolled out to Dublin’s homeless population this week. The initial rollout will target very high-risk single people living in hostels across the city with transportation to be organised by Dublin Fire Brigade.

About the author:

Adam Daly

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