Written Answers. - Accommodation for Homeless.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

80 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government the steps, if any, he is taking to deal with the problem of homelessness in Dublin and other major urban areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23320/99]

Local authorities have a wide range of powers to enable them to respond to the accommodation needs of homeless people in their areas, including the direct provision of accommodation and securing accommodation for homeless persons through the agency of the health boards or voluntary housing organisations. In the Dublin area a referral service is operated by the Eastern Health Board on behalf of the local authorities to arrange emergency accommodation for homeless persons. Dublin Corporation, in whose area the greatest incidence of homelessness is found, has a cold weather strategy to increase the supply of accommodation, including the establishment of a night-time drop-in service, operated by CROSSCARE, for homeless people during the winter months. The corporation is also pursuing a strategy to assist homeless people back into independent living or into sheltered housing accommodation with the objective of freeing up emergency hostel accommodation.

Within the past few years the corporation has acquired or leased several premises for homeless persons and it is continuously engaged in seeking to identify and acquire premises which would be suitable as both emergency and sheltered accommodation for homeless persons. My Department provides 100 per cent capital funding for local authorities in respect of the acquisition and redevelopment costs. In addition, my Department recoups 90 per cent of local authorities contri butions to voluntary bodies who provide accommodation for homeless persons.
The position in relation to the provision of suitable accommodation for homeless persons in other major towns is similarly a matter for the local authorities concerned and the Department is aware that these local authorities continue to seek out and provide suitable accommodation.
The local authority housing programme is the main element in housing homeless people in permanent housing accommodation. In any year local authorities allocate 500 to 600 tenancies to homeless households. The local authority housing programme has been significantly increased in recent years and will be increased further over the next four years. This expansion of the programme will enable local authorities to house more homeless people.
The cross-Department team on homelessness, established by my Department to prepare a comprehensive response to the many issues which affect homeless people, is well advanced in the preparation of its report which is expected to be finalised in the near future.