Ministers Kelly & Coffey announce 20 actions on Homeless
Ministers Kelly & Coffey announce 20 actions on Homelessness
The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Alan Kelly TD, and Minister of State, Paudie Coffey TD, have announced details of the Government’s 20-point Action Plan to tackle emergency and short term homelessness. The Plan, signed off by the Cabinet this morning, commits to €20 million ‘plus’ in expenditure and includes the immediate provision of 260 additional emergency beds for people sleeping rough in Dublin, a Nite Café to provide a contact point for homeless people who do not want to be placed in emergency accommodation and the provision of transport with support services to bring people sleeping rough to emergency accommodation where they will be cared for. The Minister is issuing a direction to the four Dublin housing authorities to allocate 50% of all housing allocations to homeless households and other vulnerable groups for the next 6 months having regard to the time spent by these households on the homeless and other housing lists as at 1 December 2014. This will provide homes for approximately 500 people.
The two ministers announced the Plan during a visit to the Dublin Region Homeless Executive’s ‘one-stop-shop’ advice facility in Parkgate Street, Dublin. Minister Kelly said: “I made a commitment that every homeless person in Dublin who needs a bed or emergency accommodation will have one before Christmas but, if they choose otherwise, the new Nite Café will be available to them. This Plan delivers on that commitment. It also puts in place medium term and longer term measures in response to issues highlighted by the special Forum on Homelessness we convened last week. For example, we must also cater for families with children whose urgent need is for emergency accommodation and for people who are currently in private rented homes but are in danger of becoming homeless. Our long term ambition is that by the end of 2016 we will end the scourge of involuntary long term homelessness, in accordance with the Government’s Implementation Plan in Response to Homelessness” Minister Coffey said:
“The response to homelessness requires a collaborative approach from all stakeholders – government, local authorities, state agencies, voluntary services and the general public. I would like thank all the stakeholders involved for putting their shoulders to the wheel to bring us to where we are today. The long-term solution is to build more houses, both private and public sector, which will be achieved through the Government’s social housing strategy,” said Minister Coffey. Summary of measures;
Immediate actions to address rough sleeping and Homelessness
260 additional emergency beds (including facilities made available by the Civil Defence and the Department of Defence) will be available before Christmas. Any person sleeping rough between now and Christmas will have a bed available should they choose to avail of it.
A Nite Café will be established to provide a contact point for homeless people who do not want to be placed in emergency accommodation. It will provide food, rest area and showers. At full capacity, this facility will accommodate 50 people and will operate throughout the night, 7 days a week. An initial service will commence for a few hours a night from 15th December – full service from January.
Transport with support services is being provided with immediate effect for those sleeping rough as an integral part of the Housing First service. This facility transports homeless persons to emergency accommodation and provides them with the necessary health and care supports in conjunction with other State providers. Where a homeless person does not want to be placed in such accommodation, the Housing First intake street team will direct the person to the Nite Café so that they will not need to be on the streets.
The operation of the Homeless Freephone service is being reviewed by DCC as a matter of urgency. The review will be completed by Wednesday 10th December.
A Stay in your Home campaign will be put in place to raise awareness of tenants' rights and ensure that families and other individuals at risk of losing their tenancies will be assisted to stay in their homes. The support service currently operated by Threshold in Dublin will be provided with additional staff this week and the service will be extended to Cork in early January.
500 people to provided housing as Minister Kelly issues a direction to the 4 Dublin housing authorities to allocate 50% of all housing allocations to homeless households and other vulnerable groups for the next 6 months having regard to the time spent by these households on the homeless and other housing lists as at 1 December 2014. A hotel under the control of NAMA will be purchased to provide accommodation and a single assessment centre for homeless families and expected to be operational by the end of April 2015.
A total of 1,046 vacant properties are being brought back into productive use in the Dublin City Council area. 655 of these will come on-stream over the next 4-6 months, with the remainder being developed in phases, up to 2018. In addition, all Dublin housing authorities are considering properties in their area including those listed on the State Property Asset Register with a view to utilising all potential properties for housing purposes on an emergency basis. Furthermore, all housing authorities throughout the country will return all their general void properties to productive use as a matter of urgency and such properties should comply with basic standards of accommodation including space standards in accordance with the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government's guidelines.
Dublin City Council is re-examining its 657 vacant properties which are currently scheduled for demolition with a view to refurbishing some of them on a temporary basis to address the immediate need and the Minister will issue a direction in relation to the early refurbishment of specific developments.
Regulations will be signed next week to provide for the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) to be rolled out on a pilot basis for homeless households in the Dublin region, to enable accommodation to be sourced from the private rented sector. The rollout of HAP on a national basis will be pursued in accordance with the timelines established in the Social Housing Strategy.
Housing authorities in other cities (Cork, Limerick, Galway,Waterford) are urgently assessing the scale of homelessness within their areas and to revert to the Department this week with indications for any additional actions required. The Minister will meet with financial institutions, including the Central Bank, and relevant Government Departments to discuss what measures can be taken with regard to encumbered “Buy to Let” properties and those in receivership.
The Minister will engage with the private sector who have corporate social responsibility to leverage its expertise in property management, financing and accommodation provision so as to alleviate the homelessness problem.
Discussions are taking place with the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces regarding what further assistance could be provided. Supports
The Integrated Services Hub, providing a one-stop shop service for homeless persons, will further develop its case management model with the Department of Social Protection to include income support and job activation measures. In addition, staff from the Department of Social Protection will work with housing authorities and the Irish Prison Service to provide an appropriate in-reach service to all prison settings to ensure that prisoners are assisted to find accommodation before release.
Tusla and Dublin City Council will coordinate operations to ensure that services are fully responsive to the particular protection and welfare needs that might arise for families in emergency accommodation. Additional long-term accommodation will be provided in the Dublin region through the HSE for older homeless people with chronic illnesses and who do not need acute inpatient care.
Health Services for the homeless will be co-ordinated at senior management level in the Dublin region from 15 December. In addition, the HSE will streamline its specialist consultant-led mental health and primary care services in Q1 2015 to ensure in-reach services into all emergency accommodation settings across the Dublin Region. This will make it easier for homeless people to access the services as service providers will come to them, rather than the other way around.
The HSE will put in place a formal discharge protocol with Dublin hospitals and homeless services to ensure that, as far as possible, no patient will be discharged into homelessness. This will be operational in Q1 2015. An evaluation of the homelessness sector including its structures, service delivery and coordination arrangements will be commissioned by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government in 2015.