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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 17 Jun 2003

Vol. 568 No. 5

Written Answers. - Strategy on Homelessness.

Joe Costello


97 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for the Environment Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the serious concerns expressed by the chief executive of the Dublin Simon Community regarding the continuing level of homelessness which he has indicated is just as bad as when the national homeless strategy was launched three years ago; the plans he has to address the homeless situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16502/03]

I am aware of the views of the Dublin Simon Community in the matter and, while I share the concern at the level of homelessness, I must also emphasise the Governments continuing commitment to tackling the issue.

According to the assessment of homelessness undertaken by local authorities in March 2002, the number of homeless households at 3,773 showed a slight increase over the 1999 figure of 3,743. This situation clearly challenges all public authorities concerned to intensify their efforts. Equally, however, there is evidence of good progress in tackling the underlying causes of homelessness and in making preventative strategies more effective.

Virtually all of the three year action plans to tackle homelessness required by Homelessness – An Integrated Strategy have been completed by local authorities, together with health boards and voluntary bodies, and work is well under way on implementing the measures in them. A wide range of additional accommodation, ranging from emergency night shelter to long-term sheltered accommodation to enable homeless persons move out of emergency accommodation into accommodation that is more suitable to their needs has already been provided and more will be provided in future years as part of the full implementation of the action plans.

Substantial additional funding has been made available to support the rollout of the accommodation element of the Homeless Strategies. Capital funding from my Department for the direct provision by local authorities of specific accommodation for homeless persons is being doubled from €25.4 million to €50.8 million over the period 2001-05. The voluntary and co-operative sector is also playing an active part through the provision of housing for homeless persons under the voluntary housing capital assistance scheme and 500 such dwellings have been provided in the past two years alone.

Recoupment by my Department of current expenditure on accommodation-related homeless services by local authorities has increased significantly from €12.6 million in 1999 to an expected €50 million this year. These increases are clear evidence of the Government's determination to provide the funding necessary to address the issue of homelessness in a comprehensive and co-ordinated way.

The prevention of homelessness is also being addressed. The main aim of the homeless preventative strategy is to ensure that no one is released from any type of State care without the appropriate measures in place to ensure that they have a suitable place to live with the necessary supports, if needed and its provisions are now being implemented.

I am also concerned to ensure that the care and welfare needs of homeless people are also adequately addressed. In this context the implementation of both the integrated and preventative strategies will continue to be monitored by the cross Department team on homelessness with a view to identifying and addressing any obstacles to progress.