Homeless families sent to Garda stations due to lack of emergency accommodation

The Tánaiste has insisted the government's housing strategy is working

Updated 17.35

Homeless people are being told to go to Garda stations for help, according to campaigners.

A Dublin group is warning they've recorded the highest ever number of rough sleepers across the city.

Inner City Helping Homeless found 173 people on the streets on Tuesday night - among them 38 women and two children.

Focus Ireland put the number of homeless families in Dublin at "well over a thousand".

"There were no hotel rooms, there were no emergency beds for 11 families, and the only thing on offer for you is to go the Garda station, and we had to give that advice as the only recourse," Mike Allen of Focus Ireland told Newstalk Breakfast.

"They go to the Garda stations, they're told 'nothing we can do, we'd have to arrest you'. Sometimes they're put in a place in a security by the guards. Very often, the families won't go to the Garda station."

Mr Allen said three families spent the night in Fairview Park in Dublin.

"The fundamental thing about this story is that it has to be seen as absolutely wrong," he continued.

"There's no law that has been broken - nobody has failed to meet their statutory duties [...] There doesn't appear to be any obligation on the state, on the Taoiseach, on the government, even when they've been found homeless, even when they have children in their care."

'Additional capacity'

In the Dáil this afternoon, Junior Housing Minister Damien English says more accommodation was added to the system yesterday.

He told deputies: "I understand that the issue of contingency capacity for families was a matter which was on Dublin City Council's agenda prior to Tuesday night."

He said that while the new accommodation arrived a "day too late" for the families affected on Tuesday, "it is of some reassurance that this additional capacity now exists within the system".

'Unacceptable'

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has described the situation as 'unacceptable'.

Her comments came as the Government and Fianna Fáil united this lunchtime to vote down emergency legislation to tackle the homeless crisis from Solidarity-People Before Profit.

Mrs Fitzgerald said the Government's taking every initiative possible to deal with the housing crisis and this week wasn't normal.

In the Dáil this afternoon, Minister Fitzgerald defended the government's housing strategy - insisting that while progress may be slow, the strategy is reaping dividends.

"Every effort is being made to ensure that families get accommodation through the use of the HAP (Housing Assisted Payment), through social bills and encouraging private supply as well,” she said.

“All of those initiatives will come more and more into play.”

"The energy has been misplaced"

On the issue of homeless families and emergency accommodation, Mr Allen said Apollo House were right not to take in families.

However, he added that the answer to the crisis is not more emergency accommodation.

"Rough sleeping is back up to very high levels. The answer is preventing people from losing their homes, and getting people homes, not more and more emergency beds.

"Huge amount of energy has gone into it by Minister Simon Coveney and local authorities, that's to be admired [...] Unfortunately the energy has been misplaced.

"If they put the same amount of energy into commitment into preventing families from being turfed out of their rented homes from banks that we own, from vulture funds that we sold [...] We would have a more positive affect than we would be saying."