Thursday, 4 March 2004

Questions (53, 54)

Willie Penrose

Question:

42 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to comments by the Archbishop of Dublin stating that 4,000 people are now homeless in Dublin and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3869/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

145 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has proposals to address the issue of homelessness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7382/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 42 and 145 together.

I am aware of the comments made by the Coadjutor Archbishop of Dublin, as referred to in the question. I wish to reiterate the Government's commitment to tackling this serious issue on a sustained basis with the aim of eliminating the need for rough sleeping by the end of 2004 and of providing adequate emergency and move on accommodation and support services to enable homeless persons to achieve independent living as soon as possible.

Considerable progress has been made since the publication of the Government's Integrated and Preventative Strategies on Homelessness in 2000 and 2002, respectively. As part of this process, local authorities, together with health boards and other statutory and voluntary bodies, are required to draw up local action plans to tackle homelessness. These plans are now being implemented under the aegis of the local homeless fora and significant progress is being made in meeting the accommodation and care needs of homeless persons.

A wide range of additional accommodation, ranging from emergency accommodation to long-term sheltered accommodation has been provided. This has enabled rough sleepers to access emergency accommodation and allowed homeless persons to move out of emergency accommodation and into accommodation more suitable to their needs. Increased levels of day care facilities as well as specific provisions to meet the needs of people with addiction problems or who are sleeping rough, as well as homeless offenders, have been put in place. Further facilities will be provided as part of the full implementation of the homeless action plans with particular emphasis on the provision of move on accommodation to minimise the long-term use of both emergency and bed and breakfast accommodation.

In Dublin, the Homeless Agency is responsible for the planning, co-ordination and delivery of services to people who are homeless. Substantial progress has been made in tackling homelessness under the existing action plan for Dublin, Shaping the Future, including the housing of almost 1,500 homeless persons by the local authorities, voluntary housing sectors and the Housing Access Unit in the three year period 2001-2003, the provision of more than 1,000 additional emergency beds and specialist designated accommodation for street drinkers and drug users. I understand that the preparatory work for the next plan is nearing completion.

Substantial additional funding has been made available to support the implementation of the homeless strategies. Current Exchequer funding for accommodation related homeless services by local authorities has increased substantially from €12.6 million in 2000 to €51 million this year. Capital funding for the direct provision by local authorities of accommodation for homeless persons is being doubled from €25.4 million to €50.8 million during the period 2001 to 2005. Funding continues to be made available to the voluntary sector for the provision of accommodation for homeless persons under the Department's capital assistance scheme.

With a view to ensuring that progress is sustained, the Cross Department Team on Homelessness continues to monitor the implementation of the homeless strategies and a review of the strategies is expected to be initiated shortly.