Written Answers. - Homeless Persons.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

21 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government the initiatives which have been taken by him to deal with the alarming level of homelessness in the Eastern Health Board area as revealed by the study in 1999 of the homeless initiative; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the waiting time for an offer of suitable accommodation is lengthening in each of the local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter [6561/00]

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

25 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government the plans, if any, he has to deal with the problem of homelessness, particularly in the greater Dublin area; if his attention has been drawn to the call made by Focus Ireland for annual expenditure of £39 million over the next five years to deal with this problem; if he will respond to this call; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10034/00]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 21 and 25 together.

The 1999 assessment of homelessness in Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow, which was prepared for the homeless initiative by the Economic and Social Research Institute, indicated that there was a total of 3,890 homeless people in the area during the week of the survey. This compares with a total of 1,632 homeless people in the same area in the 1996 assessment. Part of this increase was due to the broadening of the definition of homelessness and a change in the methodology used for compiling the figures. In 1996, the assessment of homeless persons was made on one single night and in 1999, the count was complied over one week.

I am aware of the call reported in the media which was made by Focus Ireland for annual expenditure of £39 million over the next five years to deal with the problem of homelessness.
It is primarily a matter for the local authorities concerned in co-operation with the other statutory and voluntary agencies to formulate responses to meet the accommodation and welfare needs of homeless people in their areas. My Department will continue to afford priority to providing resources and support for a range of measures to meet the accommodation needs of homeless people. The need for a comprehensive response to homelessness was acknowledged in the establishment of the cross-Department team on homelessness whose remit includes health, education, employment as well as accommodation needs. The team's report and recommendations on how the problem of homelessness should be addressed comprehensively will be considered by the Government in the near future. Much is already being done for homeless persons but more is required and it is essential that there is a coherent strategy for the delivery of services to homeless persons. The cross-Department team report will address these matters.
A special £5 million allocation over the two years 2000 and 2001 was made in the recent budget for the provision of two high support hostels for homeless people suffering from drug and alcohol addictions and is being made available to Dublin Corporation to build or acquire and redevelop suitable premises for these purposes. This allocation will supplement the £4 million allocation in the public capital programme for the provision by local authorities of hostel accommodation this year.
The local authority housing programme, which also provides housing accommodation for homeless persons, is being expanded to provide 22,000 housing starts over the next four years and will assist in housing homeless persons.