Louth SF at National Homeless Protest

Louth Sinn Féin Councillors Joanna Byrne and Ruairí Ó Murchú joined a huge Sinn Féin contingent in Dublin on Saturday afternoon to support the National Homeless and Housing Coalition’s (NHHC) mass housing protest.

The national day of action, organised by the NHHC, was supported by organisations such as Focus Ireland, the Peter McVerry Trust, the Simon Communites, along with a number of activist and trade union groups, actors, musicians and political parties – including Sinn Féin.

Saturday’s protest saw people come out in their thousands to demonstrate against record homelessness figures and the fact our country is facing a national housing emergency.

Speaking after the protest Cllr Joanna Byrne and Chairperson of Louth County Council’s Housing Strategic Policy Committee said:

“A mobilisation of this size has to send a clear message to the government to make housing a right, not a privilege. The latest figures show that there are nearly 10,000 people in this country that are homeless, including 3,755 children. Month by month these figures are rising, it is gone beyond frightening at this stage and these people are the reason we are here today, these are the people we are standing in solidarity with today. This needs to be recognised as a national emergency and dealt with accordingly. The government need to increase investment in homelessness prevention and tenancy sustainment and provide more protection for tenants at risk of homelessness to even try and get a handle on this crisis.”

Cllr Ruairí Ó Murchú, Sinn Féin’s General Election candidate for Louth stated that “until there is a change in government policy this crisis will continue to get worse. The government’s over-reliance on the private rental sector to meet social housing needs, combined with rising rents and no rent certainty has played a major part in this crisis, this needs to change. Focus needs to be on building social and affordable homes, mixed-tenure public housing estates on public lands, funded by central government and built by local authorities.”

Joanna Byrne and Ruairí Ó Murchú joined Uachtarán Shinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald, along with the parties spokesperson on Housing Eoin O’Broin behind the banner leading the Sinn Féin section of the protest.

Elected Reps and activists from all around the country followed behind making the huge Sinn Féin presence felt and were the largest Political Party supporting the event.

 

 

Joanna Byrne Welcomes Emergency Accommodation Checks

At the December meeting of Louth County Council, Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne tabled a motion calling on LCC to commence unannounced, random spot-checks on all emergency accommodation provided by the local authority to those presenting as homeless.

Cllr Byrne also requested that a summary of these checks be reported to the council monthly in the housing progress report.

Following her motion being passed, Cllr Byrne is delighted to see that these checks are already underway and the first reporting of the same included in the January report.

Cllr Byrne said: “There is an onus on the Local Authority to promote safe and effective service provision to the vulnerable in our society experiencing homelessness. There is a multitude of reasons behind me requesting these checks – to keep the channels of communication open between the local authority and those being placed in emergency accommodation, but mostly to ensure that all of this accommodation complies with building, health and fire safety standards. The safety and wellbeing of people who find themselves in a vulnerable position, is very important.

“In December I welcomed the response from The Director of Service’s for Housing that they were to happy to act on my request and commit to reporting of this on a monthly basis, and one month later I commend the Local Authority on the swift implementation of the same. It is re-assuring to see the importance of these checks being recognised.”

Cllr Byrne has vowed to monitor this going forward and ensure that these checks continue.

Cllr Joanna Byrne: Lets Work Together to bring Rough Sleeper Count to Zero

At Monday’s meeting of the Drogheda Municipal District, Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne expressed her shock at the results of this years Rough Sleeper Count.

This count took place unannounced by Louth County Council at 2.30am on Wednesday 15th November in both Dundalk and Drogheda and no persons were found to be sleeping rough.

Following Cllr Byrne raising this issue at the start of the meeting and asking questions regarding the zero count, which sparked wide debate, Senior Executive Officer Aoife Lawlor confirmed to the meeting that she herself had participated in this Rough Sleeper count and she could categorically say that there was not one person sleeping rough on these streets between the hours of 2.30am and 5.30am.

Rough Sleepers in Drogheda earlier this year

Cllr Byrne says ” To be honest I am shocked at this result returning at a count of zero, most people in this room knows of somebody somewhere sleeping rough in this town, a small number of people it may be, but is still a number.

“My understanding of this rough sleeper count taking place in the first place is to get a clear assessment of the problem, understand the magnitude of it, and allow the local authority to make provisions to provide effective and safe accommodation to these people to help deal with the issue.

“A zero count on the night, in my view, does not portray a clear image of the situation.”

Cllr Byrne stressed that whilst she was shocked by the result she did not doubt the merits of it, but made the suggestion that perhaps the local authority should liaise with the public reps in each area in advance of future rough sleeper counts to be aware of the hotspots known to the members and to include them on their route going forward.

“Let us all share our knowledge and work together to try bring that number down from the handful it probably is, to a realistic zero.

Joanna Byrne: Homelessness Is Not Just A Big City Issue

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.”

 

Cllr Joanna Byrne – Homeless Figures in Louth Don’t Add Up

joanna-byrne-1Sinn 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”.