At the September Council meeting of Drogheda Municipal District, Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne queried the monthly homelessness report produced by the local authority.
Joanna Byrne pointed out “that again this month there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people who are presenting as homeless in the Drogheda district, but I don’t find the report accurate and it is not a true reflection of the current homelessness situation in the town.”
Cllr Byrne said “I note that this month there has been a decrease in numbers presenting as homeless in both the Ardee and Dundalk districts and a significant increase in the numbers in Drogheda. But even at that, to be frank, I don’t find this report worth the paper it’s printed on. I can walk you over this town right now and show you several people sleeping in doorways. These are not irregular patterns, they are consistently sleeping in the same places, some of them for months now.”
Homeless in Drogheda
These comments were met with severe opposition from Paddy Donnelly, Director of Services with LCC who refuted the fact that this report wasn’t worth reading and stressed the work that goes into compiling it.
Cllr Byrne came back and said that whilst she meant no disrespect to the staff in the housing department, “the awareness needs to be there that the homeless crisis in Drogheda is much bigger than the local authority’s report portrays, be it down to the fact that maybe some of these people are not presenting themselves to the authority as homeless, or whatever the case may be, but the reality is that this is a growing epidemic and needs to be addressed.
“With the week that is in it and us having three homeless people die nationally, be under no illusion that these are not just big city issues, it won’t be long until a tragedy like that darkens our doors.”
Sinn Féin Cllr Joanna Byrne last week asked for clarification from the SEO for Housing at Drogheda’s Municipal District meeting as to why the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government’s November Homelessness report shows practically double the number of homeless adults than that released from Louth County Council for the same period.
Having not got any satisfactory explanations for said question the Sinn Féin team again raised the query yesterday at the full council monthly meeting, to which the Director of Services for housing had no answer.
The governments homeless report states for the November period there were 116 homeless adults in the North East, 112 of them in Louth. This is without factoring in the number of children homeless. Louth County Councils combined figure was 64. Even at that both reports do not factor in rough sleepers, or the hidden homeless: those people sleeping on sofas and floors of family and friends.
Cllr Byrne says: “There is a huge discrepancy between the information being provided to us by the governments housing department and Louth County Councils housing department. It is imperative we get the correct information relayed to us so we get a clear view of how the situation stands. We need a true reflection of the homeless situation in the county and I will be pursuing this with the council officials until we get clarity on it”.
Sinn Féin Louth and East Meath TD Gerry Adams has expressed his “deep concern at the significant increase in the levels of homelessness in Louth and the North East.”
Teachta Adams said: “The Homelessness Report for September 2016 which was published this week by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community & Local Government has revealed a significant increase in the levels of homelessness in Louth and the North East.
In September 2015 there were 38 persons designated as homeless in the North East, including Louth. The Homeless report for September this year reveals that there are now 62 homeless adults of whom 59 live in Louth.
In September 2015 there were no families homeless in the region. There are now nine families listed as homeless eight of whom are single parent families and there are 12 children designated as homeless in the North East.
Across the state there are 4283 adults, 1173 families and 2426 children sleeping in emergency accommodation in September. That represents a significant increase on the previous month and on this time last year.
These statistics do not include the hidden homeless. Those citizens who are sleeping on floors or sofa’s in the homes of family and friends and who have been refused access to emergency accommodation despite having no home of their own.
The reality is that every day more and more people are presenting as homeless. Home repossessions, vacant possession of buy-to-let properties, spiralling rents and family breakdown are the key reasons.
Despite this the Government has refused to act on rent certainty or home repossession. They are also failing to provide sufficient long term housing through an aggressive programme of purchase of vacant units or to speed up the delivery process for social housing.”
Teachta Adams said:
“The situation in Louth is clearly deteriorating and the responsibility for this lies with the government which is failing to take the urgent action needed to keep people in their homes and to provide housing for those trapped in emergency accommodation.”
At the last Municipal District of Drogheda Council Meeting, the rough sleeper count which was conducted on the night of 30th November came back as zero.
Councillor Kenneth Flood said “the definition of a ‘rough sleeper’ is so narrowly defined it almost renders the term meaningless.”
The definition of a ‘rough sleeper’ is ‘people sleeping, or bedded down, in the open air such as on the streets or in doorways, parks or bus shelters; people in buildings or other places not designed for habitation (such as barns, sheds, car parks, cars, derelict boats or stations).’
Cllr Flood pointed out that ‘because a rough sleeper on 30th November which was quite a cold night, crawled into a derelict building for some degree of shelter from the elements, they are not counted. This is simply not a true or accurate reflection of the situation.”
Councillor Flood also pointed out that he didn’t want the public “thinking this figure meant there wasn’t a homeless problem in the area. This count simply covered the people within that narrow definition, they were not referring to people who are ‘homeless’.”