THE GOVERNMENT HAS come in for criticism as latest figures show that the number of homeless families staying in commercial hotels in Dublin has risen again, reaching its highest point in months.
Throughout the last week in November there were 758 families residing in private, commercial hotels in the Dublin region, with the number at 722 for the last night of that month.
This marks a jump of 42 families on October. The figures for November are the highest since May of last year.
This is despite a huge push and investment by government since late 2016 to move families out of hotels and into group style accommodation, known as “family hubs”.
As families started moving into these hubs, the number in hotels began to go down from a peak of 815 in March.
However, in recent months they have begun to rise again.
When compared with November 2016, there are 22 fewer families in hotels.
But while the number of families in hotels has dropped slightly over the year, the number in other forms of homeless accommodation has almost doubled (from 243 in November 2016 to 430 in November 2017).
The latest figures for Dublin are contained in a Homeless Update report presented this week to DCC’s Housing Special Policy Committee.
The report shows that in November of last year a total of 3,691 adults and 2,533 children accessed emergency accommodation in the Dublin Region.
In November a total of 85 new families presented to homeless services and entered into emergency accommodation in the capital.
As well as this, DCC said that another 79 families were prevented from becoming homeless by being placed into tenancies, mainly through the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme.
HAP is a form of social housing support that is paid to private landlords by local councils on behalf of tenants.
In November, 72 families were moved out of homelessness and into tenancies (mostly through HAP) – meaning that there was a net increase of 13 homeless families in Dublin.
Between July and September of last year, 290 families were made homeless who had never been homeless before.
Half of these families were made homeless as they had either lost or were unable to source private rental accommodation.
Homelessness charity Focus Ireland said that more newly homeless families contacted them looking for help over the Christmas period than ever before at that time.
In July 2016 the government launched Rebuilding Ireland – its Housing Action Plan.
Contained within in the plan was a commitment to end the use of commercial hotels for housing homeless families by July 2017.
At the time there were 731 families staying in hotels in Dublin, 27 fewer than there are now.
Former Housing Minister Simon Coveney made this one of his key commitments while in office, repeating the pledge multiple times.
The family hub model was introduced to help achieve this aim, with millions of euros of funding provided by the Housing Department to have to hubs up and running in time to make the deadline.
While a number of hubs were opened, many were delayed and behind schedule. This was coupled with delays in providing rapid-build housing as well as ever-increasing numbers of families becoming homeless.
The end result was that by July last year, the deadline for getting families out of hotels was missed by a large margin. There were still 753 homeless families in hotels in Dublin – more than when the commitment was first made.
Coveney stepped aside as Housing Minister around this time. One of incoming Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy’s first acts was to announce that the July target would not be met.
Despite questions from TheJournal.ie at the time, the minister did not set a new date for ending the use of hotels for housing homeless families.
Two new family hubs opened in December, and three more are due to open this month.
With these five hubs operational, 136 new family rooms should be available by the end of this month, meaning the number of families in hotels could start to decrease again.
However, experts fear that unless measures are brought in to stop families being evicted, the number of families in hubs will increase, but the number of hotels will not go down.
“Unless they introduce measures to stop families being evicted when landlords sell up, the number of families in hubs will rise but the number in hotels won’t fall,” Mike Allen, director of advocacy with Focus Ireland, told TheJournal.ie.
A bill aimed at preventing the sale of property being used as a grounds for terminating a tenancy was early last year voted down by the government.
As well as being highly unsuitable for families, commercial hotels are also a highly expensive form of emergency accommodation for Dublin City Council to pay for.
Figures show that Dublin hoteliers and B&B operators received €23.9 million in payments to house homeless families in the first six months of last year.
While family hubs are seen as an improvement on hotels, they have also been criticised as highly unsuitable for housing homeless families.
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