Advertisement

We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Waterford City SHUTTERSTOCK/MADRUGADA VERDE
Waterford

Council's housing chief 'loath' to axe need for homeless to require local link for emergency beds

Local authorities have previously been told by the housing minister to drop the policy for anyone seeking an emergency bed.

THE HOUSING DIRECTOR for Waterford has suggested he would “be loath” to introduce a policy whereby emergency beds could be provided to anyone from outside the county who is homeless.

If the ‘local connections’ policy were to be suspended, then it could see “word spread very quickly” and the city’s “homeless numbers would shoot up”, Ivan Grimes told a public meeting of councillors for Waterford City and County Council last week.

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien has previously said he has issued “clear directions” to local authorities that they are not to implement the policy for people seeking an emergency bed for somewhere to stay.

Grimes’ comments have been criticised by the Free Legal Advice Centre (FLAC), which said it has “concerns about the humanity of imposing such a requirement”, whereby homeless people must come from the county where emergency beds are available in order to take them up.

The centre also said that the policy “is something which the law neither mandates nor requires” under the Housing Act of 1988.

Waterford City and County Council is the lead authority for coordinating housing on the ground in the southeast and, in the most recent figures published, there were 76 people in emergency accommodation locally as of October. The total number for the region was 224.

The remarks from the local authority’s director of housing services came following a request from one councillor to “suspend the local connection” rule for the Christmas period given the severe weather.

The policy refers to how some local authorities, when considering an application for an emergency bed, may determine whether a household has a local connection within the area before they are given an emergency bed, including employment, education or if they have relatives living in the area.

The Journal reported last month that some legal experts and housing advocates have concerns about the policy, as the minister has previously maintained he told councils not to adopt the ‘local connections’ rule.

The minister told local authorities that the ‘local connection’ criteria, which applies to social housing applications, must not be a barrier to getting an emergency bed.

Waterford Council has been praised by both the minister and leading housing advocates such as Fr Peter McVerry for their housing policies in recent years, with the latter telling RTÉ earlier this month that more councils should follow Waterford’s example. Similarly, the council outlined its work to this publication recently on bringing a number of vacant commercial buildings back into use for hundreds of Ukrainian refugees.

At the council’s monthly meeting last Thursday week, December 8, director of housing services Grimes said: “I’d be loath to drop that,” referring to the ‘local connections’ policy.

He added that “if every local authority operates the same” policy – where no local connection is required – it could see more people seeking accommodation in Waterford.
“I don’t want to sound unfair or unreasonable but if we were to drop that, word will spread very quickly,” he added. “Our homeless numbers would shoot up.”

Responding to the comments, Christopher McCann, a solicitor with FLAC said there is no requirement for the said there is no requirement for the ‘local connection’ rule in law.

“As the Minister has directed, correctly in our opinion, there is no requirement under the Housing Act of 1988 for an individual seeking emergency accommodation to prove a connection to the functional area of the local authority where that accommodation is being sought,” he said.

“Quite apart from concerns about the humanity of imposing such a requirement, it is something which the law neither mandates or requires.”

Fianna Fáil councillor Jason Murphy, who requested that the policy be suspended, told this website that he believes the council needs to reconsider its stance for the Christmas period.

He said it is an “ad hoc policy that I find difficult to comprehend”, as people seeking emergency accommodation could be “fleeing terrible and abusive situations and could be seeking a bed to stay in for many reasons”.

He added: “I don’t see how removing the ‘local connection’ is going to put a strain on our services. Given the severe weather, insisting that a person has to be have a connection with Waterford before we offer them shelter is a bit harsh, especially at this time of year.

“If they had used this 2,000 years ago, then our Lord would have been sent back from Bethlehem and the history of the world might have been different.”

When the council was asked about the policy, it gave the The Journal the following statement: “In periods of extreme weather like the current cold temperatures, persons presenting to Waterford’s Homeless Services seeking temporary emergency accommodation are assessed on a case by case basis.”

It added that the ‘local connection’ test is part of a requirement set by the Department of Housing, however, it added this applies to social housing supports, which is separate to homeless people seeking an emergency bed.

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
6
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel