Homeless charities hit back after Keegan says ‘whole industry’ sustaining people sleeping in tents
HOMELESS CHARITIES HAVE today criticised Dublin City Council’s chief executive Owen Keegan who yesterday suggested that “well-intended” homeless volunteers are sustaining people sleeping in tents on the streets of the capital. © Alamy Stock Photo Dublin City Council CEO Owen Keegan
Speaking to Newstalk’s The Hard Shoulder, Keegan was commenting on the perception that Dublin is unsafe after Irish Olympian Jack Woolley was assaulted in Dublin city centre on Friday night.
Keegan told the programme that anti-social behaviour is a concern and said that the proliferation of tents in Dublin is adding to this.
“There are other aspects, like the proliferation of tents – and I’ll get into trouble for saying this – but we don’t think people should be allowed sleep in tents when there’s an abundance of supervised accommodation in hostels.
“We’ve had up to 100/150 beds available every night for homeless people, and we would have thought that it’s not unreasonable that in those situations, if you’re homeless, you’d go into a professionally managed hostel.”
Keegan said there is “massive pressure” to allow people to camp on the street.
“And that adds to that perception of an edginess about the city”.
Asked about homeless people who may not feel safe staying in hostels he said: “I think being out on the street in a tent is objectively is much less safe than being in a professionally managed hostel.
“There is an issue that if you’re in a hostel, which is a congregated setting, there has to be some limits on your behaviour and some people find that very challenging.
“I still think you’re better off in there, where you can access services in a much safer environment than being out on the street.”
Reacting to Keegan’s comments this morning, Fr Peter McVerry said some people “feel safer sleeping on the streets or sleeping in tents”.
McVerry said that while some of the emergency accommodation in the city are single rooms of “excellent quality”, other accommodation is shared with “four, five, six or more” people to a room.
He said a big complaint from people in shared accommodation is drug use.
“These are people who are drug-free or who are trying to stay off drugs. They do not want to go into these hostels,” McVerry said.
He later said: “If we want to get people off the streets, we have to ensure these hostels are safe. That means providing for homeless people a single room or at least a partition space where they can go in at night, lock the door, know they’re not going to be assaulted during the night, know that their belongings are still going to be there in the morning.”
Focus Ireland director of advocacy Mike Allen said the solution to the issues which Keegan has raised “is not removing tents, or better shelters, or better PR for shelters, it is affordable housing”.
“Mr Keegan is the CEO of the largest housing authority in the country and his plans to solve the housing problem should get more attention than his feelings about tents,” Allen said.
He added that “even the best-run shelter requires rules and regulations which many people feel are oppressive and wish to avoid”.
“While we share Mr Keegan’s views that living in a tent on the street is objectively more dangerous than living in emergency accommodation, if people feel safer in their tents it is not an adequate response to just ‘disagree’ with them,” Allen said.
“We need to understand why people are anxious about organised shelters and respond to their concerns. The availability of cheap tents which are easy to put up in urban spaces has given people who are homeless some limited choices, the choices people make in these circumstances should lead us to reflect on what we are doing and what we can do better,” he said.
“Taking away their tents and reducing their limited choices is not an ethical or effective solution.”
Inner City Helping Homeless CEO David Hall said Keegan’s comments “distracting from failed policies that have led to the increase in homelessness across the city”.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin has called on Keegan to withdraw his comments.
Speaking at Leinster House today, the Sinn Féin housing spokesperson said that Keegan’s comments were “very unfortunate” and “regrettable”.
“There are very good reasons why people don’t go into emergency accommodation,” he said.
“People who experience mental health, people who have had negative experiences in those threshold, dorm-style or shared hostels. They don’t feel comfortable.”
He said that the solution was to end this type of homeless accommodation and move people out of homelessness quicker.
“People feel like they have no other choice. That’s not a criticism of the providers of the emergency accommodation, it’s a criticism of Government policy.”
Ó Broin questioned again the the delay in publishing the Government’s “Housing for All” plan.
The new plan was scheduled to be launched in July, but was delayed.
Ó Broin said there was “disorientation, disagreement and confusion” between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil over housing policy.
“They’re going to announce the plan, it’ll then take six, eight, nine months before that gets up in action. Micheál Martin will no longer be Taoiseach by the time the Fianna Fáil housing plan is even in action,” he said.
Fred says enough is enough. People need homes to live in. Rebuilding Ireland had provision for the local authorities to buy homes on the open market but for some unknown reason they denied the Councils the option of buying houses from the second-hand market. This makes no sense. They also introduced Repair and Lease. It was to target accidental landlords, people leaving the family home for a care home, derelict properties but suitable for refurbishment. A number of bodies like McVerry Trust have been successful in taking back into the marketplace properties that would have be empty and providing homes for a very special cohort of people, often with mental health issues or addiction. This market enables people to enter areas like Blanchardstown/Castleknock/Finglas where there are three/four bedroom houses with infrastructure in place including schools … and universities. Figures released yesterday show an appalling low figure of people taking up this option ie Repair and Lease or buying houses. McVerry Trust had a video about three years ago done by a German company about Repair and Lease and other options for housing. Too many silos are destroying options and the people who are hurt most are the most vulnerable and sadly children. We have come a long way from the poverty of the 1960’s. Jim Sheridan recommended this link to me … we must never lose sight of what poverty is really about.
Willie O’Dea – where are you? The Fair Deal is in shreds. Yet 5,000 houses belong to people who will never return to them and they are vacant. Get some legislation through and ensure that these houses can provide homes for people on the housing list.