Cllr Joanna Byrne: Ad-hoc approach to emergency accommodation is failing our Homeless

At this month’s Municipal District of Drogheda meeting, Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne raised concerns about Louth County Council’s system to assist those seeking emergency accommodation.

Cllr Byrne, who has proved a strong advocate for the homeless in Drogheda, expressed major reservations about the process a homeless person has to go through to secure emergency accommodation.

Cllr Byrne also suggested some changes, which were dismissed on the night by the Senior Executive Officer for Housing Aoife Lawlor.

Cllr Byrne said “At present, somebody who is experiencing homelessness in Drogheda presents to the Homeless Officer, gets approved for assistance and if there are no beds available with the NGO’s who provide Homeless facilities in this town, they are then told to find a B&B and it will be paid for. This is all well and good until somebody can’t find a B&B, then where do they go, onto the streets?”

She went on to say “I have had many people present to my clinics in this distressing situation and I have spent numerous hours calling B&B’s who nine times out of ten seem to be fully booked when they hear it’s to house a homeless individual or family. There is, without a doubt, a stigma surrounding people in this unfortunate situation and there is a reluctance to take these people in. If a County Councillor cannot secure a booking for them what hope do they have themselves?”

Councillor Byrne asked if the local authority would consider establishing a link with some B&Bs, enough with a capacity to cater for the numbers presenting as homeless and requiring emergency accommodation in B&Bs, so that at any given stage the Homeless Officer would know what beds would be available to the local authority and have somewhere concrete to settle this person in until alternative solutions were made available – this suggestion was immediately dismissed with the Senior Executive Officer quoting “too many liabilities involved in such an arrangement”.

Cllr Byrne was deeply dissatisfied with this response and concluded in stating that “facing homelessness and a night on the streets is everybody’s worst nightmare, without the added pressure of ringing or calling to 10-15 B&B’s in some cases before securing a bed. This is an area the local authority is majorly lacking in, sitting back with a sporadic ad-hoc approach is failing our homeless and adding much more unnecessary pressure to an already daunting scenario. Some sort of legitimate system needs to be put in place especially as presentations of this nature are growing higher by the week.”