The assessment of homelessness is, in the first instance, a matter for local authorities. The homeless agency in conjunction with the voluntary sector is addressing the issue of putting in place a more effective system of establishing the incidence of rough sleeping. Last week, the agency and the voluntary bodies completed a street count of rough sleepers. This count commenced on 12 January and was completed on 29 January 2004. I understand the count comprised data collected with and-or from a range of statutory and voluntary service providers and it is intended that the findings will be collated and finalised in the coming weeks. I am confident that the implementation of the LINK data system being introduced by the statutory and voluntary homeless service providers in the Dublin area, together with the continued efforts of outreach workers will, ultimately, provide the basis for a more accurate counting system. Specific attention will also be paid to the issue of homelessness in the preparation for the triennial assessment of housing need to be undertaken in 2005.
One of the key targets in the national anti-poverty strategy is the provision of sufficient and appropriate emergency accommodation for rough sleepers by the end of 2004 in conjunction with the provision of appropriate outreach services to enable them to access the services available to them.
Significant progress has already been made in the provision of services for rough sleepers since the publication of Homelessness — an Integrated Strategy in May 2000. For example, initiatives which have come on stream in the Dublin area include the provision of 1,000 additional emergency beds of which 100 specifically target rough sleepers, additional outreach teams to make contact with people sleeping rough and assist them into accommodation, the Dublin City Council nightly bus service which takes people from the streets to available accommodation, a hostel for young drug users and a long-term supported housing project for street drinkers. Appropriate provisions are also being put in place in other local authority areas to cater specifically for persons sleeping rough and street drinkers. My Department recoups to local authorities 90% of the accommodation related costs of these facilities while the care-support costs are provided by the health boards.
The achievement of the NAPS target in regard to persons sleeping rough remains a Government objective and I hope that, by the end of 2004, sufficient accommodation will be available to avoid the need for rough sleeping.