Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Questions (154)

Alan Farrell


154. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to reverse the April 2013 30% increase in the number of persons sleeping rough on the streets of Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44930/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Traditionally it has been difficult to quantify the number of homeless persons on an on-going basis; this is in part a consequence of the volatility within this cohort of housing need. However, during the course of 2013 the Pathway Accommodation & Support System (PASS), which commenced operation in Dublin in 2011, is being extended nationally. When PASS is fully implemented nationally it will provide good quality, timely data which will allow housing authorities to report in relation to the on-going extent and the dynamics of homelessness as it is addressed.

In advance of the full implementation of PASS the most complete set of data available in relation to homelessness nationally is the Central Statistics Office's special Census report, Homeless Persons in Ireland, which was published on 6 September 2012. This report indicated that a total of 65 individuals were sleeping rough on Census night, 10 April 2011, while identifying a further 3,743 people as housed in accommodation defined as emergency, transitional or long-term. Of the total of 3,808 individuals included in the report, almost 60% were in long-term or transitional housing arrangements.

A count of rough sleepers conducted in April 2013, organised by the Dublin Region Homeless Consultative Forum, found that there was 94 persons confirmed as sleeping rough on the night in question. These rough sleeper figures indicate the significant challenge in dealing with the complexity of the homelessness issue and the difficulties in finding answers to it. Rough sleeping is monitored closely countrywide but particularly in Dublin. The problem of rough sleeping is very limited outside of Dublin, with Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Galway City Councils reporting sufficient bed capacity on a nightly basis and that there is no one sleeping rough due to a lack of a bed. The Dublin Region's Outreach Team works on an on-going basis to engage with all individuals sleeping rough with the specific goal of moving people into accommodation through Dublin City Council's Central Placement Service. Indeed, Dublin City Council recently commenced a public awareness campaign to encourage members of the public to contact the Outreach team about persons sleeping rough with a view to moving people into temporary accommodation and on to independent living.

The priority of this Government is to ensure that homeless people have access to secure, stable, appropriate accommodation. It is not acceptable that people should sleep on the streets of our cities and towns. While the immediate hardship of sleeping rough may be solved through emergency accommodation, this is not a viable long term solution. The recently published Homelessness Policy Statement outlined the Government's aim to end long-term homelessness by the end of 2016. The statement emphasises a housing-led approach which is about accessing permanent housing as the primary response to all forms of homelessness. While it is clear that a proportion of funding must be used to provide sufficient bed capacity to accommodate those in need of emergency accommodation, it is equally important that resources are channelled to deliver more permanent responses in a more focused and strategic way. In the Dublin region in 2012, 879 people moved from homelessness to independent living.

Statutory responsibility in relation to the provision of accommodation and related services for homeless persons rests with the housing authorities. Work continues between central and local government and the voluntary sector to ensure that the considerable monies spent on services for the homeless are effectively and appropriately targeted.