Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy at the Housing Summit in Dublin (September 2017).

Source: Sam Boal

The amount spent on homeless services in Dublin almost trebled in four years

Over €118 million was spent on homeless emergency accommodation last year.
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DUBLIN SPENT OVER €118 million on homeless emergency accommodation last year, with just under €50 million going to private hotel operators.

The Dublin region financial report for 2018 – which covers expenditure across the four Dublin local authorities – shows that €141 million in total was spent on homelessness services in the capital last year.

This marks an increase of €17 million on the homeless budget for 2017, and is close to triple 2014′s budget of €50 million.

The number of homeless adults in Dublin more than doubled between December 2014 and December 2018, while the number of homeless children almost quadrupled.

Figures released late last month by the Housing Department show that there were and now over 10,300 homeless adults and children across the country in March, with 7,100 living in Dublin.

A total of €118.3 million was spent on temporary emergency homeless accommodation in Dublin last year, representing 83% of the entire budget. This money was split between short- and long-term hostels, hotels and family hub accommodation for homeless families.

Private hotel operators were paid just under €49.3 million for providing accommodation for homeless people, an increase of about €2.2 million on the previous year. A further €13.8 million was spent on other private emergency accommodation, meaning hostels and family hubs operated by private companies.

Family hubs – group-style accommodation for homeless families – were first introduced in late-2015 as a way to move families out of hotels and into more suitable accommodation. Then-Housing Minister Simon Coveney committed that by July 2016 there would be no more homeless families living in hotels.

Figures for February of this year show that there were 740 homeless families with 1,724 children living in hotels in Dublin, as well as 392 families with 781 children in family hubs.

The remainder of the emergency accommodation budget for last year was split between different hostels and family hubs in the capital operated by homeless charities like Focus Ireland, Peter McVerry Trust, DePaul, the Salvation Army and others.

Of the entire budget, just €4.7 million (3.3%) was spent on homeless prevention and supports to keep people in their homes, including just €928,000 on contact and outreach services for the Housing First programme, aimed at getting rough sleepers off the streets and into their own homes.

Commenting on the budget, Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin called for more focus to be put on prevention measures by the government, as well as a proper inspection practices to be put in place for private emergency accommodation.

“There’s a lot of money being spent [on this accommodation] and we’ve no idea if standards are being met,” he said.

He said that the relatively small amount of the budget that was spent on preventative measures shows that the government was “still trying to grapple with the crisis and hasn’t got control of it”.

Ó Broin said that it was important to provide emergency accommodation for the homeless adults and families that needed it, but that the government needed to “to outline what its plan is to reduce expenditure year on year”.

He called for a proper independent inspection regime to be introduced to ensure private emergency accommodation was up to an adequate quality. He also called news laws to be introduced to help prevent families being evicted from their homes and into homelessness.

Homeless numbers and skyrocketing rental costs are one the main issues facing the current government. The latest rental report from Daft.ie released this month found that the average cost for renting a home in Dublin had risen to over €2,000.

A national rally for housing is due to take place in Dublin this Saturday, with organisers calling for a major investment in social housing and an end to evictions into homelessness.

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