Two street deaths add urgency to call for beds

by Mark O'Brien

A LEADING homeless charity has called on the Government to build more homes to help solve the homeless crisis, with the deaths of two men on the streets of Dublin this week throwing their call into sharp focus.

Focus Ireland have welcomed the announcement of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive’s (DRHE) Cold Weather Strategy, which will see more than 200 additional bed spaces being made over the winter period.

But the charity says that new figures which show record total of 8,492 people are currently homeless nationwide must act as a “reality check for the Government”.

Focus Ireland’s comments came before the discovery of a man’s body at a tent in Ranelagh, and a Lithuanian man by The Four Courts, where he had been sleeping rough.

Both men were known to outreach services.

Sinn Fein Housing spokesperson Eoin O Broin offered his condolences to the family and friends of the men who passed away.

Deputy O Broin called for the opening of the full allocation of beds to be brought forward: “The Government does not have the homeless crisis in hand.

“This month, the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive quarterly rough sleeper count revealed a 33% increase in the number of people forced to sleep on the streets in November.

“The opening of the 200 additional cold weather beds due in mid-December must be brought forward.”

Speaking before the latest developments, Focus Ireland’s director of advocacy, Mike Allen, said: “These extra beds will be welcomed by people who would otherwise be forced to sleep on the streets.

“However, it once again shows that the Government constantly reacting to the problem rather than taking more immediate action to solve it.

“The response we really need – an adequate supply of affordable housing – is coming so far down the track that it is hard to see when it will ever arise.

“This is highly worrying, coming in the same week that a new report by Focus Ireland clearly showed the terrible damage being homeless does to families and children in particular.

“These children are losing their childhoods now. Some housing targets further down the line are not going to make up for this.

“There is more the Government could be doing now, such as bringing in legislation to end evictions from buy-to-let houses when they are sold or repossessed,” he said.

The additional beds became available from last Wednesday, November 22, with the full quota of beds to be available by December 18.

“In addition to the emergency beds, the Housing First Intake Team will operate every night, with the staff on the Intake Team being expanded by two.

The Housing First approach aims to get people off the streets and into a home as quickly as possible. Once housed, the individual is provided with the intensive support that is often required by people who have been sleeping rough to help them sustain their tenancy.

A spokesperson for DRHE said: “The addition of 200-plus new bed spaces alongside the expansion of Dublin’s Housing First Service ensures we can, and will, provide for everyone engaging in rough sleeping while allowing for additional overall capacity.”

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