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.

Homeless figures expose government housing failure – Adams

Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has described the May 2018 homeless figures published last week for Louth as shameful and he accused the Housing Minister Eoin Murphy of “failing to effectively tackle this housing scandal.”

Compared with May 2017 the figures show – despite the Minister’s efforts to re-categorise the numbers of people defined as homeless – that the number of families and children in Louth emergency accommodation has continued to rise.

Gerry Adams said:

“One year ago in May 2017 there were 18 families with 44 children on the homeless figures for the North East, almost all of them in Louth.

12 months later and despite the claims of progress by Minister Murphy, May 2018 saw 25 families homeless in Louth with a total of 55 children.

In addition, in May 2017 there were 7,699 people homeless of whom 2,777 were children. One year later and these figures have jumped to 9,846 homeless of whom 3,826 are children.

Of particular concern is the increase in the number of homeless children which at almost four thousand in a scandal. The number of homeless pensioners is up 38% in one year with the state unable to house 128 pensioners.

At the same time these statistics do not include the hidden homeless. The adults and children in Tusla funded domestic violence shelters, those in direct provision centres or those sleeping on sofa’s with family and friends.

All of this must be set against the Ministers decision to remove almost 300 people from the figures. But even this scam cannot hide the reality that there is a homeless emergency that is not going to get better without urgent action. 

There are solutions to this housing crisis. Sinn Féin and others have presented credible alternatives to the current debacle, including the purchase of turnkey homes, and far more ambitious Housing First targets, Unfortunately, for the adults and children existing in emergency accommodation this government is choosing not to listen.” 

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.