Work needs to be done to ensure people volunteering to work with the homeless are properly vetted, according to the Housing Minister.
Speaking to Kieran Cuddihy as part of The Hard Shoulder’s Cabinet Confidential series this evening, Darragh O’Brien said soup runs are not considered best practice when it comes to helping homeless people.
He said well-meaning people who are looking to make a difference should consider engaging with Ireland’s established homeless charities and getting the necessary training to make a real difference in the sector.
“I suppose there has been an issue with some charities working in the homeless sector,” he said.
“Ad hoc ones that have been set up that don’t have the requisite skills, necessarily, to deal with really complex issues – particularly for rough sleepers.
“Many rough sleepers - not all - will also have other health issues be that through mental or physical health or be that through addiction. So, you need specialised people in that area.”
"For dealing with our most vulnerable, we need to make sure that those people who are engaging with them are properly qualified to do so." Minister Darragh O'Brien on the subject of homeless charities. @TheHardShoulder pic.twitter.com/yEMgJl2koV
— NewstalkFM (@NewstalkFM) November 1, 2021
He suggested soup runs are not best practice when it comes to helping the homeless – even if the people behind them are extremely well-meaning.
“There is a job of work to do with regard to ad hoc organisations that are set up,” he said.
“In Dublin right now, there are some well-meaning people, no question about it, who are maybe doing soup runs and various things like that and feeding people out on the street which if you talk to experts, is not best practice.
“We need to get people inside to be able to talk to them to engage on other needs they have. So, there is a job of work to do there – particularly around the vetting issue.
“If we are talking about our most vulnerable people, we need to make sure those people who are engaging with them are properly qualified to do so.”
Minister O’Brien said a recent report involving the Dublin Region Homeless Executive found that many of the people engaging with soup runs and kitchens in Dublin were not homeless.
“What I would say to people who are very committed to helping those who are worse off than themselves is to maybe engage with some of the more established charities that are there,” he said. “They are always looking for help and volunteers.”
“To get trained in that space too. If people are showing an interest in helping those less well off, I think that is brilliant. I think that is fantastic and is to be admired but we want to make sure that best practice is used because that is crucially important.
“So that people who are sleeping rough are encouraged to come into hostels so we can help them actually get permanent accommodation or the proper health supports that many of them need.”
The minister admitted that there are still many rough sleepers who refuse to engage with homeless hostels because they fear for their safety; however, he insisted conditions have improved in recent years.
“The quality of the emergency accommodation there and the security within emergency accommodation is vastly improved compared to even two short years ago,” he said.
“Much of that is to do with COVID actually with the shielding facilities that were set up and the extra health supports that were put in place.
“There are still some people who have had really bad experiences in emergency accommodation – they may have been robbed, they may have been abused or attacked – and of course you can understand how someone who experienced that might feel more secure not in that setting.
“We have moved a lot towards more single accommodation too but fundamentally for all of us, we don’t want to have emergency accommodation all over our cities.
“We want to be able to provide real homes for many of those people and exit people from homelessness – which we are actually doing.”
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