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Dublin: 11°C Monday 23 November 2020
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Dublin's winter plan for rough sleepers 'doesn't go far enough', says CEO of city's oldest charity

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive activated its Cold Weather Strategy last month.

Image: Leon Farrell via RollingNews.ie

THE CEO of Dublin’s oldest homeless charity, the Mendicity Institute, has claimed the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive’s Cold Weather Strategy “falls short” of providing sufficient support for day services.

The DRHE coordinates the responses to homelessness on behalf of the four Dublin local authorities. 

In order the meet the increase in demand for homeless services and have “appropriate” contingency plans in place for cold weather conditions, the DRHE activated its cold weather strategy in the Dublin region last month. 

Latest figures from the Department of Housing show that 10,514 were in emergency accommodation in Ireland in October, including 6,688 adults and 3,826 children. 

The Official Winter Rough Sleeper Count was also published this week and found that a total of 92 people are confirmed as rough sleeping across the Dublin region in Winter 2019 compared to 152 in 2018.

Through the strategy, the DRHE plans to increase capacity for singles and couples by 342 permanent beds and 20 temporary beds for rough sleepers by the end of December 2019. 

As of 12 November, there were 186 permanent and 20 temporary beds already in place. 

DRHE says “during the cold weather period, services are increased and enhanced to mitigate against the health risks that cold weather poses”.

While the strategy is in effect, the Dublin Street Outreach Service, run by the Dublin Simon Community and the DRHE’s rough sleeper support team, has increased its staffing to help engage with people sleeping rough across the Dublin region. 

Contingency placements are in place for any family that presents in need of a crisis placement, according to the DRHE. 

Arrangements are also in place between the DRHE, the gardaí, Dublin Outreach, Housing First, Central Placement Service and the HSE for those sleeping rough during the cold weather. 

Rough sleepers availing of one-night only beds have to leave the following morning, meaning they are again left out on the streets during the day. 

30123869_577460242632982_7517901177141329920_o The Mendicity Institute Source: The Mendicity Institute via Facebook

The DRHE’s Cold Weather Strategy also outlines a list of day services available for rough sleepers and those in need during the winter months. 

These are services that are in place year round, and are not additional services which have been opened up specifically for winter. 

The Mendicity Institution, Dublin’s oldest working charity, is one of the charities in the city helping rough sleepers to secure beds at night. It also provides day services. 

Located near Usher’s Island in Dublin’s south inner city, the charity provides meals six days a week for people who are homeless and vulnerable, in addition to homelessness and integration supports. 

CEO of the Mendicity Institution, Louisa Santoro, has told TheJournal.ie has welcomed the implementation of the Cold Weather Strategy, but added that it “doesn’t go far enough”. 

She claimed that the Strategy does not ensure that there are continuous services available for rough sleepers on a 24-hour basis. 

“The Cold Weather [Strategy], although welcomed, it really falls should because its not insistent on a continuum of services to somebody around a 24-hour period,” Santoro said. 

She added that sometimes rough sleepers end up spending time outdoors during the day in public spaces such as “libraries, parks and bookies”.

“These are long days,” she said. 

Santoro noted that the charity only opens six days a week as it does not have sufficient funding to sustain operations for a seventh day. 

“I would like us to be open on Sunday because homelessness is not something that takes a break at the weekend either,” she said, adding that the charity’s late night services are run only by one paid staff member and one volunteer.

If there was more funding made available to the charity, Santoro said, it would be in a position to work with rough sleepers to assess their housing needs and provide further help in trying to move them on from homelessness. 

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, a spokesperson for DRHE said it “currently funds a number of day services for homeless people across the Dublin region, including food services, medical, hygiene and laundry facilities”. 

“In addition, the DRHE is in the process of carrying out a review of all day services to ensure that there is appropriate services in place for homeless people. We expect this review to conclude early 2020,” the spokesperson said.

Further details about the DRHE’s Cold Weather Strategy can be found here

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