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Dublin: 20 °C Tuesday 16 July, 2019
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Homeless families asked to pay €37 a week to live in 'hubs'

Family hubs are group accommodation units specifically for homeless families.

Image: Leon Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

HOMELESS FAMILIES BEING moved from hotels into “family hub” facilities are asked to pay a fixed rate charge of €37 per week.

Family hubs are group accommodation units specifically for homeless families looking for permanent accommodation. They aim to provide cooking, cleaning and on site support services for families.

Families are given wrap-around support during the time they spend at the hubs, and have staff who work in helping them secure long-term alternative accommodation.

The hubs are part of the government’s solution to the numbers of families forced to live in hotels due to homelessness. In March of this year, the then-Housing Minister Simon Coveney pledged that hotels would no longer be used to house homeless families by this month.

Families who are currently living in commercial hotels or B&Bs are not asked to pay a weekly charge for their accommodation.

A spokesperson for Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) – which manages the homeless services for the entire Dublin region – confirmed to TheJournal.ie that:

Families residing at family hub facilities will where possible pay the fixed rate charge of €37 per week (under the family household budget scheme).
In cases where families earn more than €300 per week, the payment will be €45.

In May of this year (the latest month for which figures are available), there were 794 families with 1,592 children living in commercial hotels in the Dublin region.

The new family hubs are being opened up by Dublin City Council, in partnership with the DRHE, to support the families who are currently in commercial hotels.

A number of not-for-profit organisations currently operate the hubs in Dublin.

Families will pay the amount that they can based on their income levels and family composition, according to a DRHE spokesperson.*

In development

Today, the DRHE confirmed to TheJournal.ie that there will be a total of 18 family hubs that will provide accommodation to circa 634 families. The numbers of families in each service will vary from 12 up to 80.

Currently, fifteen hubs are being developed by the DRHE at a total estimated cost of €25million, to provide accommodation for some 600 families at any point in time.

It was initially reported in TheJournal.ie in May that the DRHE’s end goal was to have 10 to 15 hubs in order to provide accommodation for about 500 families.

The calculation of cost for families to live in the hubs is based on the Dublin City RAS units and Community Welfare Office system, which is in turn based on the amount of rent supplement a household would be entitled to, based on their income.

According to DRHE, families can either opt to pay the charge via the family household budget scheme or via payment card provided by the council.

NGO providers such as Crosscare, Respond and Salvation Army, who hold a service level agreement with the council, will receive the payments directly from the households.

Criticism 

Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) has heavily criticised Dublin City Council for asking residents of the hubs to pay a weekly charge.

“Hubs are in place as a transition to housing which I highly doubt,” CEO of ICHH Anthony Flynn said, raising concerns about how long the families would have to stay in the hubs.

The amount charged isn’t far off the normal rent with a housing co-op or DCC unit.
Except here you have to share your washer, dryer, cooker, kitchen with other families and be rostered to do so.
It’s a highly unacceptable situation.

The plan to use a former Bargaintown warehouse in Coolock as a family hub was met with local resistance and the use of former commercial hotels has also been strongly criticised.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

Eleven months ago the government launched its action plan, Rebuilding Ireland, to address housing and homelessness in Ireland.

One aspect of the plan that caused a lot of commentary at the time was the commitment to end the use of commercial hotels and Bed & Breakfasts to house homeless families by the middle of 2017.

The commitment around hotels and families in the plan is this:

Ensure that by mid-2017 hotels are only used in limited circumstances for emergency accommodation for families, by meeting housing needs through the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and general housing allocations, and by providing new supply to be delivered through:
- An expanded Rapid Build Housing Programme [1,500 units]
- A Housing Agency initiative to acquire vacant houses [1,600 units]

However, over the past few months it became apparent that the commitment would not be met on time and the “family hubs” began to be developed.

The first hub, High Park in Drumcondra – operated by Respond! – opened in December.

Speaking on RTÉ News at One in April, Claire, who was living in the High Park hub at the time, said:

“It’s loads better. We’ve got our own space and it is just so much better than being [in the hostel].”

With reporting by Cormac Fitzgerald

*This line was amended to accurately reflect the spokesperson’s comment on families who cannot afford the €37 charge.

Read:  A changing promise: The Government said it would get families in hotels out of homelessness, but now it’s putting them into hubs

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