Coveney: Two new homeless hostels are not direct result of Home Sweet Home campaign

A deal was reached between the occupiers of Apollo House and the government yesterday

Coveney: Two new homeless hostels are not direct result of Home Sweet Home campaign

Image: RollingNews.ie

The Housing Minister has said an agreement to open two new homeless hostels in Dublin was made 'well in advance' of his meeting with Home Sweet Home campaigners last week.

Yesterday, the occupiers of Apollo House said they will leave the building once suitable accommodation is available.

The group has agreed to stop taking in new residents - however it is unlikely the thirty residents currently in the building will have left by the court-ordered deadline of January 11th.

The government and occupiers agreed that at least two new homeless shelters will be opened in Dublin city centre to help address the homelessness crisis.

In a statement, Home Sweet Home said: "At least two new facilities addressing the homelessness emergency will be opened. In order to raise the bar on the agreed minimum standards these facilities will include residents having their 'own key' to a place they can call home. This minimum standard will be achieved with the direct participation of residents and will provide those who are ready and want private 'own key' accommodation with full support services.

"The Minister confirmed that the provision of these new facilities will cost in excess of €4 million and Dublin City Council advised us that this positive development only came about as a direct result of the Home Sweet Home campaign. As demanded by Home Sweet Home, these facilities will include units suitable for single persons and couples and will promote independent living."

"I'm not going to be competing with Home Sweet Home here"

Speaking to Jonathan Healy on The Pat Kenny Show, Housing Minister Coveney praised the 'passionate' Home Sweet Home campaigners for starting a national conversation about homelessness over the Christmas period, as well as seeking long-term solutions to the crisis.

However, he also stressed that the two homeless shelters had been requested by Dublin City Council before his 'good and frank' meeting with the Apollo House occupiers last Friday.

He said: "I don't want to give the impression, because it's simply not true, if it hadn't been for that meeting there wouldn't be two new hostels coming on stream.

"Brendan Kenny is the person in Dublin City Council responsible for the accommodation needs of homeless people in Dublin. He specifically asked me whether I would support Dublin City Council in providing two new hostels, well in advance of that meeting actually. And I said yes to that, so I confirmed that at the Home Sweet Home meeting." 

Minister Coveney observed: "I'm not going to be competing with Home Sweet Home here. They have - successfully I would say - got a conversation on homeless happening over Christmas - and many people who otherwise wouldn't have been talking and thinking about homelessness were over Christmas because of that campaign."

However, he also suggested it would be unfair to downplay the roles of the many other homeless campaigners, organisations and activists in determining government policy on the issue.

"It would not be fair of me - and it also wouldn't be truthful of me - to say we wouldn't be moving ahead with two extra hostels only for the Home Sweet Home campaign. That's just simply not true."

Image: RollingNews.ie

He also repeated his pledge to ensure no homeless families are staying in hotels by the middle of the year.

Minister Coveney explained: "There's about 1,500 families that are homeless, but they're in different types of accommodation. What I have said is that families - and there are about 800 of those - that are in commercial hotel and commercial B&B accommodation... that we're going to end that practice.

"I think we can do that - working with local authorities, working with approved housing bodies, working with the voluntary sector - to make sure we take families out of inappropriate accommodation in hotels, and that we replace that with appropriate transition accommodation for some families. But for the vast majority of families, we get them out of hotels and into homes," he added.

NAMA buildings

Meanwhile, the Home Sweet Home group says it received no guarantees about the use of NAMA buildings during their negotiations with the Housing Minister.

The group - who have been occupying Apollo House in Dublin over the last month - had called for NAMA owned buildings to be used to house the homeless after their own occupation of Apollo House.

It was part of a detailed submission they made to the Department of Finance.

Brendan Ogle, however, says the issue of NAMA buildings was one of the areas where they made little progress in talks, and that responsibility lies with other departments.

"To be fair, the Minister for Housing Simon Coveney was there with officials from his department, and also from [Dublin City Council] - and he has no control in that capacity over NAMA buildings," he said.

"So we don't know whether the two buildings that are going to [...] be brought to bear now are NAMA buildings or not... We don't know at this moment in time."