Homelessness in Dublin

Dear Councillor  Tormey

I am writing to you as the Chairperson of the Dublin Homeless Network, which represents over 20 of the homeless organisations working in the city, to set out our views on the decision to keep the Cedar House Emergency Accommodation hostel open, which I know was discussed recently by the council.

As you are aware, Cedar House was closed in March 2011 as part of the ‘Housing Led’ approach to tackle long-term homelessness, which works by providing people who are homeless with mainstream accommodation with supports as required.

It was re-opened in November 2012 as part of the cold weather initiative, under which extra beds are provided to ensure nobody has to sleep rough when the temperature drops below zero. The cold weater initiative, which has been undertaken by the Network and the Homeless Executive every winter for the last number of years, plays a critical role in ensuring that people who are homeless are not left in life threatening situations on our streets during winters, such as the one we have just experienced.

The cold weather period ended in April but, following a review of the number of emergency beds required for people who are homeless in Dublin, the Homeless Executive has confirmed that Cedar House will remain open to meet the on-going need.

While Network members are frustrated and disappointed that the step of re-opening Cedar House has been forced on the Homeless Executive, we fully support this decision as it is the only immediate alternative to more people being forced to sleep rough. Rough sleeping presents a severe health risk for people who are homeless and being forced to sleep rough is an infringement of their rights and dignity. We are assured that the use of Cedar House will be kept under review by the Homeless Executive.

The City Council’s Central Placement Service informs us that around new eight people are presenting as homeless in our city every single day. The overwhelming majority of these people are simply the victims of several years of recession, unemployment and cuts to services. It is of very great concern to us that attempts have been made to link the provision of shelter with problems of street crime and anti-social behaviour. Homeless organisations share a commitment to create a vibrant, safe and flourishing city, and we understand that drug dealing and begging are challenges to businesses in the city centre. However, we strongly believe that the services we run are part of the solution to these problems and contribute greatly to the quality of life for all.

It is a profound misunderstanding of the challenges our society faces to blame homeless services for the problems they attempt to address.  The fundamental reason this decision is necessary is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to access suitable and affordable move-on accommodation. Dublin City Council has a critical role in helping to address this issue, both in ensuring that its own housing stock is allocated to those in greatest needs and, when building begins again, ensuring that planning permission is given for the type of accommodation that people actually need.

Network members recently welcomed the Government’s commitment to set a new target date of ending long-term homelessness by 2016, and we are committed to doing our part in achieving it. We are currently planning a workshop to which in September we will invite councillors in all four Dublin authorities, where we can build a deeper common understanding of how this goal can be achieved and the benefits it would bring. I will be in touch with you again concerning this in the near future, but in the meantime if you require any further information on the work of the Network please contact me at catherinemaher@focusireland.ie

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Regards

Catherine Maher
Chairperson of the Dublin Homeless Network

Members of the Dublin Homeless Network
•       Merchants Quay Ireland
•       Dublin Simon Community
•       Focus Ireland
•       Salvation Army
•       Capuchin Day Centre De Paul Trust
•       Sophia Housing
•       Sonas Housing
•       Coolmine Therapeutic Communities
•       Respond!
•       Daisyhouse Housing Association
•       Ana Liffey Drugs Project
•       Miss Carr’s Housing Association
•       Hail Housing association
•       PACE
•       The Little Flower Centre
•       Tallaght Homeless Advice Unit
•       The Bond Project
•       Threshold
•       Aids Fund Housing Project
•       The Vincentian Housing Project
•       The Peter McVerry Trust
•       Centrecare