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Dublin: 13 °C Monday 14 October, 2019
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Families 'could end up on streets' as council takes over emergency service from homeless charity

The phone line was previously run by Focus Ireland – now families will have to call the general rough sleeper line after hours.

Families will be required to call the general rough sleeper line in the evenings, a phone line that homeless campaigners have often criticised.
Families will be required to call the general rough sleeper line in the evenings, a phone line that homeless campaigners have often criticised.
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

THERE IS CONCERN that homeless families will “fall through the cracks” now that Dublin City Council’s homeless executive has taken over the after hours emergency accommodation service for families.

Focus Ireland previously provided the service on behalf of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE).

The service is specifically for families who have a crisis need for accommodation. Homeless families are required to call around hotels and B&Bs themselves in order to secure a room, which is then paid for by the homeless executive. If they are unable to find a place to take them for the night, this emergency service was designed to kick in. 

It is also in place for families who may be presenting as homeless for the first time in the evening hours, after council offices have closed. 

“The DRHE recognises that for families who are not eligible for social housing support, a temporary arrangement may need to be put in place on a given day to avoid rough-sleeping,” the homeless executive told TheJournal.ie

From Monday 15 October 2018 this service is being operated by the Central Placement Service, DRHE. On behalf of the four Dublin Authorities, the Family Support Team (within CPS) will provide emergency accommodation on an exceptional needs basis to families. As this is a crisis placement, the service will be on a one night only basis and only one offer of accommodation will be made. The booking is to facilitate arrangements to be made, as appropriate, with relevant services eg Department of Justice, Department of Social Protection, Tusla, NGOs and regional local authorities.

They also confirmed that there is no separate phone line for families, which means they will be required to call the same number rough sleepers have to call every afternoon in order to secure a bed for the night.

Focus Ireland will continue, with funding from the child and family agency Tusla, to provide advice, information and practical support in the evenings such as food and homework clubs for families who have having difficulty sourcing self-accommodation.

Anthony Flynn, CEO of Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) said this shift in how families are processed after hours “could cause havoc and see families fall through the cracks”. He said homeless individuals already have problems with the rough sleeper line.

If someone is in need of a bed for the night, they can call this number and within ten minutes they will receive a call back on the same number. They are then in a queue and have to wait for a member of staff at the homeless executive to come on the line to give them a place.

Once all of the emergency beds are full, people who call get an automated message and they can call back later in the night to see if any of the beds have been freed up.

“How are they going to manage to differentiate between families who call in and rough sleepers when all the emergency beds are full?” Flynn asked. “This phoneline is already undermanned and under resourced, it’s madness to suggest that they can handle it.

I believe more and more families will end up on the streets and they’ll be arriving at our door.

He also expressed concern that ICHH was not informed of the change ahead of this evening, which will be the first night of the new system.

“For an organisation out there on the frontline dealing with families not to be informed is very serious and puts people at risk.”

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive said “all relevant bodies” have been notified of the change and it expects a “smooth transfer of service”. 

“We would like to express our appreciation to Focus Ireland for their assistance and support throughout the process.”

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