• Covid-19

Homeless persons transferred to new lodgings during pandemic, Cllrs hear

Joanna Byrne
Sinn Féin councillor Joanna Byrne. Photo Credit: Kathy Gilroy-Barry.

Homeless persons in Louth who are currently living in emergency accommodation are being moved into alternative lodgings as many businesses such as hotels and B&Bs close their doors as the the Covid-19 pandemic takes hold across the country, while hostels and family hubs are no longer deemed appropriately safe to live in.

Some individuals are in the process of being moved from places such as hotels, B&Bs and hostels to alternative emergency accommodation, provided by Louth County Council. The local authority say the move comes after they have carried out a risk assessment focused on their homeless clients.

The question was asked at Monday’s meeting of Louth County Council at Town Hall, Dundalk by Sinn Féin councillor Joanna Byrne, who queried what measures were being undertaken to protect the most vulnerable members of society as the country responds to the global pandemic.

Director of Services for Housing Paddy Donnelly said that a plan was in place to provide adequate and safe accommodation for those persons currently residing in Private Emergency Accommodation and Supported Temporary Accommodation.

Private Emergency Accommodation (PEA) includes hotels and B&Bs whereas Supported Temporary Accommodation is a type which provides professional onsite support, such as hostels or family hubs. As of February 29, there were 107 people in emergency accommodation in Louth – and all of which where in PEA or STA lodgings.

“In hostels and family hubs, we are exercising a plan we have in place for the decanting and removing of some of the clients of those into alternative accommodation that we are making available under emergency provision available to us,” Donnelly told the meeting.

“We had a risk assessment carried out in relation to our homeless clients. We can only deal with people that present themselves to us. We don’t have a service where we are out doing field work. We encourage all of those who are challenged by their homeless situation to engage with us. We have a good relationship with all the NGOs.”

Speaking on Monday, Cllr Byrne said, “With most hotels and B&Bs closed and many more closing by the day, I want to know what contingency measures have been put in place for those currently in emergency accommodation in B&Bs and family hubs in the event their current accommodation closes, and also what plans are in place should somebody in either scenario fall victim to this virus?”

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“How will people be segregated or self-isolation facilitated? We all know there are people sleeping on park benches, in doorways, under bridges etc for many reasons. Some of these people have come through cold winter nights on the streets, may have compromised immune systems and be prime candidates to contract the coronavirus and in turn may spread it to anyone they come in contact with.”

The Drogheda-based councillor asked that the local authority, working alongside non-governmental homeless services, reach out to those in desperate need of help in this time of crisis. “I understand resources may be strained but I’m asking the Homeless Department to reach out to NGO’s on the ground and put out a call for those who haven’t engaged with the services to present themselves and to be assisted, irrespective of their circumstances and rules they may not be able to adhere to perhaps as a result of addiction or whatever their downfall may be.

“People sleeping rough are up there with some of the most vulnerable in our society, they have no supports and these
unprecedented times call for unprecedented allowances in this instance. We are in in this together and we must ensure that no-one is left behind.”

Earlier this year, Donnelly said the council were “keen not to be continually lowering the bar in relation to facilities made available for homeless persons,” citing the requirement for individuals to take responsibility for their personal use of alcohol or drugs and respect the rules of the accommodation they are placed in. However, he did state that in exceptional circumstances, such as periods of bad weather, there would be leniency.

Donnelly also said, in response to a query from Cllr Byrne, that the redeployments of public servants to other areas of governmental work during the Covid-19 crisis would have no impact on the provision of core services such as homeless assistance.

“This does not in any sense deplete any of the core services that we as a council provide,” he said.

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