Byrne: relevant stakeholders input needed in advance of Rough Sleeper Count

Speaking at this week’s Municipal District of Drogheda meeting, Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne queried the local authorities’ plans in advance of this year’s annual rough sleeper count.

The previous two years have both returned a count of zero rough sleepers, something that Cllr Byrne was very shocked and vocal about on both occasions, even offering to escort Council officials to people who were sleeping rough within walking distance of the Council offices.

Cllr Byrne had requested after the 2017 count that the Council liaise with the relevant stakeholders in advance. Following up on that request this week she said “Drogheda Homeless Aid, Drogheda Cares for The Homeless and The Red Door, among others, are the NGO’s on the ground on a daily basis, these are the people the Local Authority need to take their lead from on this issue. It won’t serve any purpose for another inaccurate count of zero to be returned.”

Cllr Byrne then called on the Local Authority to “liaise with the Public Representatives in each area in advance of all rough sleeper counts so that they can be aware of the hotspots known to the members and include them on their route.”

Rough Sleepers from last year – yet the count was ZERO

Newly appointed Director of Service’s for Housing, Paddy Donnelly, concurred with Councillor Byrne’s concerns and agreed he would ensure plans be put in place before the upcoming count to engage with all the relevant stakeholders stating that “Louth County Council want to be in a position to offer those sleeping on the streets the particular help that they need at that time” and they “would work with all organisations to ensure an accurate count is returned and that help is given.”

Cllr Joanna Byrne said “an accurate count gives a true picture of the needs and help that is required enabling everyone concerned to provide adequate resources and help those who most need it.”

Cllr Flood Questions ‘Rough Sleeper’ Definition

Kenneth FloodAt 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’.”