Cllr Joanna Byrne: Extra Hostel Needed for People with Addictions

Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne has welcomed the passing of her Drogheda Council motion calling for additional homeless services to be provided in Drogheda to facilitate those with entrenched Alcohol and Drug issues.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Byrne said whilst she recognised the phenomenal work Louth County Council and their Homeless liaison team do, she felt there was “an over-reliance” on the NGO’s in the town at times.

Cllr Byrne said “Louth is experiencing much higher presentations of homelessness than our neighbouring counties, but I fear this is not a true reflection of how prevalent this issue is as many homeless people do not meet the criteria and rules of current solutions offered by the Local Authority, mainly down to battling addictions and therefore ending up on the streets. They are not included in any figures or homeless reports.”

In a written response to her motion, Cllr Byrne was told that a multi-agency review for a low threshold hostel in Drogheda has now been listed as an action in the draft Homeless Action Plan 2018-2020, and if the need is confirmed in the review to be undertaken by the HSE and the Local Authority, steps will be taken to open one. Cllr Byrne pushed this with the Director of Service for Housing, Paddy Donnelly, asking how long it would take. “This is urgent, it can’t be allowed to drag on for years.”

Mr. Donnelly advised that the Council recognised the need and assured Cllr Byrne this would be a priority in 2019.

Cllr Joanna Byrne express her thanks for the cross-party support for her motion and re-iterated the fact that “there are people sleeping rough in the doorways and parks in Drogheda and this is solely down to them battling addictions  like alcohol or drugs.”

She added “The current set-up of just a ‘dry facility’ in this town is no longer adequate, we need to be broad-minded enough to recognise Drogheda is evolving and so is our homeless situation, we also need a ‘wet facility’ to ensure we are meeting the needs of everybody experiencing homelessness, and can no longer leave anybody to sleep on our streets. If they have a roof over their heads they can then begin to access other services to help them with their other issues but this is the first step. A roof is a basic human right and the onus is on us as a Local Authority to provide that!”

 

The actual text of the motion said:

“This Council calls for a Homeless Hostel in Drogheda to assist Homeless people with entrenched Alcohol & Drug issues.

We recognise these addictions are significant contributing factors to making these people homeless and at present we do not have the provisions in place to alleviate these issues and assist those in our town who need it.”

 

Figures from the Department of Housing for October showed:

133 people accessed emergency accommodation in the whole of the North east Region

124 of these were in Louth

7 were in Cavan

2 were in Monaghan

Louth Sinn Féin supports Raise the Roof Protest

Louth TD Gerry Adams was joined by Councillor Ruairí Ó Murchú and Cllr Anne Campbell on Wednesday outside the gates of Leinster House for the Raise the Roof rally to protest at government failure to delivery social and affordable housing.

In his remarks in the Dáil the former Sinn Féin leader criticised earlier comments from An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar describing them as “dishonest”.

Speaking in the Dáil on the all-party motion Gerry Adams said:

“I want to commend all of those who took part in the Raise the Roof protest. It was a great demonstration. Those who assembled outside Leinster House were showing their anger at the government’s shameful attitude to almost 4,000 children in emergency accommodation. They were expressing their outrage against rents that people can’t afford. They were protesting against evictions and they were protesting against this government’s failed housing policy”.

Teachta Adams said:

“According to Daft.ie Louth has witnessed the greatest annual increase in rental costs. The July figures from the Department of Housing revealed that the number of adults homeless in the North-East region, including Louth, has remained unchanged since July of last year. Clearly the government’s housing strategy is not working.

This year, fewer social homes owned by local authorities and approved housing bodies will be delivered by the Government than last year.

The Minister for Housing and his colleagues constantly parrot the claim that their plan is the only plan – that there is no alternative. Yes. There is.

Sinn Féin’s housing plan in our Alternative Budget 2019 proposes the introduction of a temporary tax relief for renters in tandem with a three-year emergency rent freeze.

Sinn Féin would also increase investment in social and affordable housing and tackling homelessness.

This is one of the many difference between Sinn Féin and this government. We believe that citizens have the right to a home. This government doesn’t believe this”.

Finally, Gerry Adams criticised an earlier attack on Sinn Féin by the Taoiseach. Teachta Adams said:

“The Taoiseach responded to a reasonable question from Teachta MacDonald on the government’s failed housing policy by attacking Sinn Féin’s refusal to stay in government in the North with a party which is denying citizens their rights.

The Taoiseach has a duty to uphold the rights of people in the North not to attack them. He also knows the efforts Sinn Féin have made and the reprehensible way the British government and the DUP have responded by refusing rights which he knows are being denied at this time.

He knows the disrespectful way they treat him and the Minister for Foreign Affairs. This has nothing to do with the housing crisis, with the housing emergency in this state, but it is proof how this government responds in a dishonest way and this brings the Taoiseach’s office into disrepute and adds to the sense – and we saw this in the streets earlier on – that this government doesn’t really care about the homelessness crisis.

He also knows the disrespectful way they have treated the Irish government. So for him to respond in this dishonest way brings the office of Taoiseach into disrepute and adds to the sense that this government does not really care about the homeless crisis”.

Councillor Ruairí Ó Murchú said: “There are thousands of households on the housing waiting list in Louth. Without the construction of significant numbers of quality, and affordable public housing many will languish on that list for years. We are in the midst of an unprecedented housing emergency. It is a crisis that has this Government has refused to confront.

The current housing crisis is entirely government made. Since the government published its ‘Rebuilding Ireland’ strategy homelessness has increased by 60%, child homelessness has increased by 77% and pensioner homelessness has increased by an unimaginable 80%. All of this has occurred despite the Ministers efforts to fiddle the homeless statistics, including an instruction to Louth County Council in May to exclude 100 homeless households”.

Adams urges Louth support for Raise the Roof

Sinn Féin TD for Louth Gerry Adams has urged people from Louth to support the ‘Raise the Roof’ demonstration which will take place at Leinster House on 3rd October at 12.30pm.

Gerry Adams said;

“The Raise the Roof rally unites political parties, trade unions, student’s unions, housing agencies, community and campaign groups who share the same aim of demanding action from the Government on the housing crisis.

“In the past week we saw how Fianna Fáil TDs, including Declan Breathnach, sided with the Government and private developers against those in housing need.

“They failed to support the Sinn Féin motion of no confidence in Minister Eoghan Murphy, a Minister who has presided over unprecedented levels of homelessness and who consistently refuses to regulate the rental market.

“Sinn Féin will publish its alternative Budget on Tuesday 2nd October.  In it we have budgeted for a 3 year rent freeze and tax relief for of 8.3% per annum for renters for 3 years.  This amounts to one month’s rent back per year.

“In Louth the average rent price was €905 in 2017.  This year it has risen to €983 per month.  People in Louth are on a treadmill of working simply to fill the coffers of their landlord.

“Our proposals are fully costed.  Sinn Féin has the political will to deliver for people who are struggling, people currently locked out of the housing market.

“I will be joined at Raise the Roof by Dundalk councillors Ruairí Ó Murchú and Anne Campbell.”

Homeless crisis in Louth deepens – Adams

Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has described the homelessness figures for June as “deeply disturbing and evidence of a government and of a Housing Minister failing to properly address the crisis in housing and homelessness.”

Teachta Adams said:

“Minister Eoghan Murphy has now been in office for a full year. Despite claims of progress the housing figures for last month are evidence of a Minister failing to do his job.
 
Last June there were 115 homeless adults in the North East region of whom 110 were in Louth. There were 14 families and 40 children.

12 months later the number of homeless in the North East region has jumped to 129, of whom 125 are in Louth. There are now 24 families and 54 children.

This is a significant increase which would have been greater but for the Minister’s instruction to Councils to exclude some categories of homeless on spurious grounds.

Across the state there are now 9,872 homeless persons – an increase of almost two thousand on this time last year.

June has seen increases in the numbers of families and children accessing emergency accommodation in Louth and in the state.

The reality is that without the right kind of action this crisis is not going to end. The government, for example, should move to amend the Residential Tenancies Act to prevent buy-to-let landlords who benefit from tax breaks from issuing vacant possession notices to quit when selling a property.” 
 

Cllr Joanna Byrne seeks clarity on Local Authority’s reporting of Homelessness

Once again Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne has called on Louth County Council to clarify the county’s status in regards to homelessness.

The Local Authority’s latest Housing Progress report saw a significant decrease in numbers presenting as homeless across the board in Drogheda, Dundalk and Mid-Louth forcing Cllr Joanna Byrne to seek clarification if this was “a true reflection of our homelessness situation or a massaging of the figures as a result of ‘re-categorisation.”

Cllr Byrne said “Louth County Council was instructed recently by the Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy, to remove a number of people from this report who were placed in local authority owned or leased housing stock as emergency accommodation.”

This recent instruction prompted Cllr Byrne to promise publicly that she would hold officials to account over what she termed the ‘sheer manipulation of the reality of homelessness in Louth.”

Speaking at this month’s Council meeting, Cllr Byrne told officials “We now have a report in front of us that is not a true reflection of the situation. It fathoms me how you expect us to assess the current state of play in regards to homelessness when you are re-categorising the reports and not including the figures you have removed. I am asking you to change the report for next month and include a new section that reflects the number of people that have been removed and placed in this type of accommodation. It is still emergency accommodation regardless of who owns the properties and until a long term tenancy through social housing or HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) is secured, they remain as homeless, no matter what way you want to dress it up!”

Joe McGuinness, Director of Service’s for Housing in Louth recognised Cllr Byrne’s concerns and assured her he would look to rectify the report for the next meeting.