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Coveney Launches Homelessness Pillar under Rebuilding Ireland – An Action Plan for Housing & Homelessness

Published on Thursday, 22 Sep 2016
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Mr. Simon Coveney T.D., Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, today (22 September) outlined the details of the Homelessness Pillar under “Rebuilding Ireland – an Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness”.  The Action Plan was launched on 19 July and today is about the detail and progress on the Homelessness Pillar since the launch.   Minister Coveney was joined by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, Katherine Zappone TD, Minister for Children & Youth Affairs & Simon Harris TD, Minister for Health.  Also in attendance were Ministers of State, Damien English, Helen McEntee and Catherine Byrne

This whole-of-Government Plan has been developed in close collaboration with other key Government Departments and Agencies, under the oversight of a dedicated Cabinet Committee chaired by An Taoiseach.

The first pillar of the Action Plan is to address the homelessness problem and the overall intention is to address homelessness by providing for early housing solutions to address homelessness among families and individuals.  Some of the main commitments and progress to date are;

  • The main aim in relation to family homelessness, as set out in the Action Plan, is to ensure that by mid-2017, commercial hotels will only be used in limited circumstances to accommodate homeless families.
  • We are accelerating the provision of the ‘Rapid Build’ programme.  By the end of 2018 at least 1,500 units will be provided. This year we will have some 300 homes under construction or completed by the end of the year.  We have projects  in Ballyfermot, Drimnagh, Belcamp and Finglas  which have had enabling works carried  out and construction is expected to commence next month.
  • We are expanding HAP Homeless Tenancies to deliver 550 in 2016 and 1,200 in 2017. So far this year  in excess of 450 tenancies have been secured and we are confident we will exceed the target for this year.  69% of the households accommodated under the pilot are families with children.
  • Additional 200 emergency beds for rough sleepers to be put in place before end of year at a cost of up to €4m.
  • The Housing Agency will purchase 1,600 vacant properties and a number of these will be used to provide permanent homes for homeless families. The Agency has already acquired 171 properties on behalf of LAs. In addition in excess of 730 homes have been offered to the agency for sale. So far bids have been made in respect of 96 of these homes and 49 of these have been accepted.
  • The increased supply of social housing targeted in the Plan - 47,000 homes by the end of 2021 will also ensure that more homes are provided for those who are homeless and for those at risk of homelessness.
  • Rebuilding Ireland also includes a range of important measures aimed at supporting homeless families with children in emergency accommodation, including the provision of dedicated child support workers, home-school liaison staff, access to free public transport, access to crèches and pre-school services and measures to address their nutritional needs.
  • We are strengthening our effort to provide rough sleepers with a home, by tripling the target for the Housing First teams in Dublin from 100 tenancies to 300 tenancies and by strengthening the housing-led approach in other urban areas. HSE funding will increase from €2 million this year to €6 million next year to provide health, mental health and addiction supports to rough sleepers and people in emergency accommodation, who often have complex needs that must be addressed in tandem with the provision of stable housing.
  • We must continue to prevent people from becoming homeless. People in serious mortgage arrears will be provided with increased access to legal and financial advice and more households will be facilitated under the Mortgage to Rent scheme, while existing measures to protect tenants in the private rented sector will be extended nationwide

Speaking this afternoon, the Taoiseach said, "Housing and Homelessness is the number one issue in the Programme for Government.  It is not tolerable that in Ireland today we have families and children living long term in emergency accommodation. Many of the current problems stem from the housing crash from which we are still recovering from. In response I established a new cabinet Minister for Housing along with a reformed Department to take on these challenges and deliver real change through an Action Plan for Housing. That Action Plan is setting the agenda and is being implemented across Government. Housing and homelessness problems cannot be solved overnight but they do require a sustained and dedicated effort to deliver lasting solutions. I am determined that this Government will bring that resolve."

Minister Simon Coveney said, “As the Minister for Housing I have witnessed first-hand the number of people sleeping rough on our streets nationwide.  The plight of families caught up in the cycle of homelessness and being accommodated in commercial hotels is also a major concern for me.  Helping these people and families is my number one priority.  I am glad to announce today an additional 200 beds for rough sleepers.  This will make life easier for some of these individuals. It’s not the complete solution but it is a step in getting these unfortunate people into homes.  The progress I am highlighting today on the roll out of the Rapid Build Programme will take many families out of hotels and put them into temporary social housing until we provide a permanent home.  The problem of homelessness and rough sleepers in particular are complex and at times it feels like we are running to stand still.  We have made good progress this year by providing 1,350 exits from homelessness.  I know this is not sufficient, but we will continue to work with the Local Authorities and service providers to deal with this problem.

“I think one thing that has been missing from the solution to the problem of homelessness previously has been the lack of joined-up Government thinking at times, and I’m pleased to see my colleagues the Ministers for Children & Youth Affairs and Health here today to outline their commitments to deal with the homeless problem in a collective and focused way.”

Minister Zappone said, “"In developing a number of actions to make life a bit better for children who are homeless and living in emergency accommodation, we have tried to imagine what it would be like to walk in their shoes for a day.  Things that we take for granted such as access to pre-school, the ability to provide nutritious food without access to cooking facilities, the possibility of doing laundry and travel to school are challenges for many in emergency accommodation.  We are working to meet these challenges and to put services in place which will make it easier for families in their daily lives.

We are also addressing the specific needs of vulnerable groups who are at risk of homelessness such as some pregnant women and some young people leaving state care.  It is intended that these actions will have a longer term effect and will reduce the numbers who find themselves homeless."

Minister Harris added, "Along with the provision of stable housing, healthcare services have a particular role to play in supporting homeless people.  Accommodation alone will not address some of the more complex needs related to homelessness like addiction and mental health issues which affect a particularly vulnerable grouping of homeless people.  As part of the Action Plan, our Department has demonstrated its commitment to providing additional healthcare support services for homeless people through an additional €2 million in funding for the HSE for these services in 2016 and a commitment that this will treble to €6 million during 2017 and 2018.  This funding will ensure that individuals and couples with high support needs can access the range of primary care, mental health, addiction and other health services and supports they require while living in supported temporary accommodation or long-term accommodation."

The Plan is ultimately focussed on delivering more homes for the people who need them.  It includes over 80 separate actions structured under five main Pillars of concerted actions right across Government.

  • Address Homelessness,
  • Accelerate Social Housing,
  • Build More Homes,
  • Improve the Rental sector, and
  • Utilise Existing Housing.

The plan is available on www.rebuildingireland.ie

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