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Man turned away from homeless services for 13 consecutive nights, says Cllr Joanna Byrne

Louth County Council Joanna Byrne
Joanna Byrne raised the issue at the September monthly meeting of Drogheda Borough Council. Photo Credit: Adrian Crawley.

A man was turned away from homeless services in Drogheda for 13 nights in a row due to a lack of beds, Sinn Féin councillor Joanna Byrne has claimed, before he was finally given a bed on Friday night last (September 4).

The issue was discussed at the September meeting of the Drogheda Borough Council when Cllr Byrne posed the question to officials as to why a person was turned away for such a long period of time. She told the meeting that the man, who was employed, was forced to sleep in a house that he was currently renovating as part of his work, unbeknownst to his employers.

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“Any time I raise this in the chamber, the Director tells me anyone who engages with the service will be given it. Unfortunately, I’ve had a case in the last two weeks where this wasn’t the case,” she said.

Cllr Byrne explained that the man, aged in his 30s, is working full time and had fallen on hard times after a relationship break-up. He found himself sleeping rough and attended homeless services in Drogheda.

“He was turned away and told to come back the next day, come back the next day, come back the next day,” she said. “This went on for two weeks until a bed became available in Drogheda Homeless Aid. He ended up sleeping in a house he was renovating with work. Had his work found out, I’m sure he would have lost his job.

“Has our budget for homelessness run out? I don’t think anybody should be turned away in any circumstances.”

Cllr Byrne referred to a motion she tabled at a previous Borough Council meeting in which she called for an increase in homeless service provision in the town. “I was told it wasn’t needed,” she said. “Something has to give. We either need more homeless facilities or we don’t and we engage with the people who are looking for assistance. She asked the council to provide a commitment such an incident would not happen again.

The motion, brought before the DBC in December 2018, called for a Homeless Hostel to assist homeless people with entrenched alcohol and drag issues.

In January, Louth County Council said they have no current plans to provide a ‘wet house’ facility for homeless persons battling alcohol or drug related addictions, despite pleas to do so by Cllr Byrne. The local authority said the numbers were not there to warrant opening such a facility.

Director of Services for Housing Paddy Donnelly said he wasn’t aware of the particular case in question but said that if a person was eligible for homeless services, they would receive them.

“If someone is eligible to service, they won’t be refused. There’s always another side to the story. There’s no reason why we would turn someone away,” he said. “Can I give an assurance it won’t happen again? Because I don’t know the circumstances, I can’t. If someone is entitled, there’s no reason they can’t get it.

“We’re still providing a very adequate service including having properties available for isolation. Our budget is always stretched. We’re not out of homeless budget at the moment.”

When Cllr Byrne told Mr Donnelly that the reason she was given for the man being turned away for 13 nights was that there was a lack of beds available, he replied, “There’s something else behind it.”

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