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'Families shouldn't be living in hotels, but to move them into a disused warehouse?'

New planned homeless accommodation has come under strong criticism.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

AT THE CORNER of the Malahide Road Industrial Park in Coolock, work is underway to turn an old Bargaintown warehouse into suitable accommodation for homeless families.

Crews from MOM Services are working to refurbish the warehouse, which is attached to the Bargaintown outlet store on Green Castle Parade off the Malahide road.

When it is completed later this year, the “family hub” (as the accommodation has been dubbed) will house around 28 homeless families and will be run by the Salvation Army.

The unit is one of a series of family hubs – which are designed to rehouse the large number of families currently staying in commercial hotels in Dublin.

Housing Minister Simon Coveney has vowed repeatedly over the past year to put an end to the use of hotels for housing homeless families by 1 July of this year.

The family hub model is a key part of this plan; however, the location and use of a former warehouse to house homeless families – as well as the family hub model in general – has come under strong criticism from opposition politicians.

“People don’t need family hubs – they need family homes,” said Catherine Murphy TD last week.

We need to start building homes for people instead of homeless accommodation in highly unsuitable locations.

Sinn Féin Councillor Larry O’Toole – who lives in the Coolock area –  spoke to TheJournal.ie yesterday from outside of the Bargaintown warehouse.

O’Toole said that the family hub model was a “panicked, stop-gap measure”.

“[The Minister] made a commitment that he would get people out of hotels by a certain date and this here seems to be his answer to that which is not at all suitable,” said O’Toole.

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“I don’t believe families should be living in hotels. I think it’s disgraceful in this day and age but to move them into a disused warehouse?”

As O’Toole spoke, lorries and vans regularly drove by, heading in the direction of the industrial estate.

Family homelessness

As of March of this year, there were 815 families with 1,641 children living in commercial hotels in the Dublin region.

Family homelessness is at its worst stage in the country’s recent history, with the vast majority of affected families located in Dublin.

A lack of affordable accommodation has led to skyrocketing rents across the city as demand far outstrips supply in the private rental market. This is coupled with a severe dearth of affordable or social housing, which has resulted in more families becoming homeless.

Focus Ireland has warned that families are staying homeless for much longer periods due to this, and that more families are becoming homeless every day.

A lot of the time, hotel accommodation for families will have no cooking or washing facilities, no play areas for children and no on-site support services. Minister Coveney has said that the family hubs will temporarily house families in more suitable accommodation while proper homes are being built.

IMG_20170529_100836 The site of the development in Coolock. Source: Cormac Fitzgerald

The family hubs will mostly be run by charitable organisations. Each one will have cooking and washing facilities, common and play areas and on-site supports for families.

So far, nine locations for family hub facilities have been identified in Dublin and are currently planned or under development.

Among them there are renovated hotels and B&Bs, a former convent, and (as in Coolock) refurbished warehouses.

High Park in Drumcondra and Cuan Álainn in Tallaght (both operated by Respond! housing Agency) are the only family hub facilities currently open, with the others due to start operating later in the year.

90425495_90425495-2 Lynam's Hotel in Dublin city which will be used as family hub accommodation. Source: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

In total, the nine facilities will house approximately 380 families when they are open and operational.

They will be located across Dublin in Crumlin, Drumcondra, Clontarf, Ballyfermot, Dundrum the city centre and Coolock.

Defence 

Minister Coveney and the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive – which manages homeless services across the Dublin region – have repeatedly defended the use of family hubs as a humane and more suitable alternative to hotels.

“The use of commercial hotels for families is unsuitable and the new family hubs will have the capacity to provide play space, cooking and laundry facilities and communal recreation space,” a DRHE spokesperson said last week.

Other supports will also be available for families as they move on to other housing options, when they become available.

However, it they have come under strong criticism from many quarters. Focus Ireland have criticised the family hub model as potentially normalising high levels of family homelessness.

“Is this sort of an assumption that we’re going to have large-scale problem of family homelessness for along period of time?,” director of advocacy Mike Allen told TheJournal.ie in April.

We’re very worried that there’s a risk here of the unintended effect of what’s happened is to normalise a high level of family homelessness without a proper underlying strategy.

In relation to the Bargaintown warehouse in particular, the fact that it is located in an industrial estate has led many to criticise it.

Local Labour councillor Alison Gilliland pointed out that the location in question is at the edge of the industrial estate. It is close to a small residential area - Castle Elms – and is on the No 27 bus route.

The new family hub will be a short walk from the Odeon Cinema, with a park, school and shops all nearby.

“It’s not ideal but it is better than a hotel on a roundabout with no public transport facilities,” said Gilliland.

IMG_20170529_102932 Source: Cormac Fitzgerald

Speaking outside the warehouse yesterday, Sinn Féin’s Larry O’Toole was less conciliatory.

“These hubs are being used to empty people out of hotels… which is costing the state an enormous amount of money,” he said.

Where are they going to go after six months? Where are the homes in six months for the people who will be moved in here?

**CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that one of the family hubs was located in a former Magdalene Laundry. The family hub is in fact located in a former convent next to the Magdalene Laundry.

Read: 12 homeless families with over 30 children told to present to Garda stations as there were no beds for them

Read: Council defends plan to use former Bargaintown store to house homeless people

About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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