As part of the response to the commitment contained in Rebuilding Ireland - Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness that, by mid-2017, hotels would only be used as emergency accommodation in exceptional circumstances, housing authorities are delivering a number of family-focused, supported temporary accommodation facilities, also called family hubs.
While this was an ambitious target, at the end of May over 830 homeless families had indeed exited commercial hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation since the publication of Rebuilding Ireland in July 2016 and 405 families had been prevented from entering them. While 647 homeless families were still being accommodated in such facilities at the end of May, all of these have been advised in writing of their pathway to alternative, more sustainable accommodation. My primary target now is to prevent homeless families from entering hotels and to find them more secure accommodation, including in family hubs.
Family hubs are an important first response for families who become homeless and who have no alternative other than commercial hotels. They are not a long-term housing solution but these custom-developed facilities offer family living arrangements with a greater level of stability than is possible in hotel accommodation, while the relevant housing authorities identify and secure move-on options to long-term independent living as quickly as possible. Furthermore, such arrangements will facilitate more co-ordinated needs assessment and support planning, including on-site access to required services, welfare, health, housing services, cooking and laundry facilities and appropriate family supports, such as the after-school programmes referred to by the Deputy.
For the 2016-17 school year, my Department provided funding to facilitate Leap cards being made available, via the family homelessness action teams, to all homeless families residing in commercial hotels in the Dublin region, allowing for free public transport for school journeys for school children and, where necessary, accompanying adults. My Department is considering the arrangements that will apply for homeless families accommodated in enhanced supported temporary accommodation and family hubs for the 2017-18 school year.