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Can Simon Coveney meet his own deadline for getting homeless families out of hotels?

It is unlikely that the July deadline for getting families out of hotels will be met.

Image: Shutterstock/IvanZivkovic

WITH JUST WEEKS from the deadline, concerns have been raised that the issue of homeless families staying in hotels won’t be solved by July.

Housing Minister Simon Coveney committed last year that private hotels to house homeless families would only be used in limited circumstances by the middle of this year.

In the Rebuilding Ireland Housing Action Plan, the Government committed that emergency hotel and B&B type accommodation for families would only be used “in limited circumstances”.

Despite opposition parties and homelessness charities questioning whether this would be possible, since then Minister Coveney has repeated the promise on numerous occasions.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie in March on whether he thought the goal of no longer using hotels to house families (except in very limited circumstances) could be met by July, Coveney said:

I think so, I think so. I mean it’s putting a lot of pressure on people but I think so.

However, with two weeks to go until Coveney’s self-imposed deadline, many doubts have been raised if it can be reached.

Homeless families 

Since the launch of last year’s Housing Action Plan, homelessness in Dublin (and the rest of Ireland) has continued to get worse.

Latest figures for Dublin show that there were 1091 homeless families in Dublin in the final week in April. On the night of 30 April there were 695 families staying in hotels and B&Bs.

Initially meant as an emergency short-term measure, hotel use for homeless families skyrocketed over the past three years as homelessness got worse. Families – sometimes with very young children – ended up staying many months in hotels.

Hotel accommodation is highly unsuitable – with many families not being afforded any proper cooking or cleaning facilities. Children having to sleep three to a bed, anti-social behaviour, damp and mould, bed bugs and mice are all common complaints raised.

Between 60 and 70 additional families become homeless each month in Dublin.

While the number is slightly down on March (when it reached a peak of 871 families), in general things have continued to get worse since last July.

In last year’s plan, the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and new units of rapid-build modular housing were put forward as the way in which the goal of ending hotel use would be achieved.

The Housing Assistance Payment is paid to landlords by local councils on behalf of tenants. Homeless families are given higher caps of rent that can be paid.

1,500 units of rapid-build housing were to be delivered to help families in need. However, planning and construction delays have meant that many of these units won’t be ready by July.

Since the beginning of this year, new family hub accommodation has also been put forward as a means of getting families out of hotels.

This group accommodation provides beds and facilities for families which are more suitable than hotels.

The hubs have cooking and washing facilities as well as onsite supports. They are run mainly by charities. In some cases the units will be old hotels, refitted with proper facilities and amenities.

However, the hubs have come under strong criticism from opposition politicians and activists, with many saying they are a temporary fix rather than a permanent solution.

In May, the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) – which manages homeless services across the Dublin region - said that a total of nine premises had been identified as suitable for supported temporary accommodation for families. In total, these hubs will provide accommodation for about 380 homeless families.

A spokesperson for the Housing Department TheJournal.ie that a total of 16 of these facilities will be completed and opened “in the coming weeks”.

The spokesperson said that funding of €25 million had been made available for this purpose.

So will the goal be met?

The DRHE and Housing Department wouldn’t be drawn on whether the July deadline could be met, however both acknowledged that it would be difficult.

A spokesperson for the DRHE said:

“The Dublin Region Homeless Executive are working to meet the deadline to move families out of commercial hotels and into more suitable family accommodation.”

A spokesperson for the Housing Department said that the Government remained “fully committed” to the objective.

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“We must be ambitious in addressing this social issue and while it is acknowledged that it is a challenging objective, given the continuing numbers of those presenting as homeless, progress is being made,” the spokesperson said.

They said that it could be expected that in the coming weeks there would be “a very significant reduction” in the number of families in hotels.

Sinn Féin Dublin West TD and housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin yesterday criticised Coveney, saying that it looked likely that the deadline would not be met.

“Just over two weeks out from this deadline and we still do not know where and when the 695 families currently living in hotel rooms are going to be housed,” said Ó Broin.

Instead of investing more money in finding a permanent solution to the growing problem of family homelessness by turning around vacant homes, the Minister is now scrambling to identify any building that could be used as a family hub.


Despite the deadline looming and significant numbers of families still in hotel, Coveney himself has refused to budge on the deadline.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie during his campaign to become leader of Fine Gael, Coveney said he intended on keeping the target he set.

“I am going after the commitments that I made,” he said.

“It is easy to set a target that isn’t difficult to achieve and then try and make yourself look good off the back of it, but that is not what politics or government should be about.

Government should always be about pushing boundaries, finding solutions that is always how I have approached issues that I have taken on and homelessness is no different – and we will get on top of homelessness.

The Government has in the past set ambitious targets for tackling homelessness which it has failed to meet. For example, its commitment to end homelessness by the end of 2016.

However, Mike Allen – director of advocacy with Focus Ireland – has said people should not be critical of ambitious targets, even if they’re not met. That ambitious targets were needed if the issue of homelessness was to be solved.

However, he said while significant money and effort had been put into achieving July’s goal, more could have been done focussing on other measures.

“We think that a huge amount of political energy and money has gone into building emergency accommodation for families,” Allen told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland last month.

If the same political commitment had gone into preventing them from becoming homeless… much more would have been achieved.

Read: ‘My father used to beat me and my mother up for fun’: A night on the streets with Dublin’s rough sleepers

Read: ‘Families shouldn’t be living in hotels, but to move them into a disused warehouse?

About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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