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More than 100 homeless in Clare this Christmas

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Over 150 people are homeless in Clare this Christmas while Clare County Council have been accused of removing sleeping bags belonging to rough sleepers in Ennis.

As of mid December, seventy nine adults and fifty five children were living in emergency accommodation provided by Clare County Council and twenty one hotel and B&B suppliers. On top of this, over a dozen men and women are rough sleepers across the county.

13 individuals are being housed at Laurel Lodge with the homeless hub at Cusack Lodge in Ennis which was opened in June of this year accommodating five families. Clare County Council have said the cost of utilising hotel and B&B providers is approximately €25,000 per week, funding for which is covered by Section 10 of the Housing Act (1988).

In February 2019, the Clare Homeless Action Team (HAT) was founded. It is an inter-agency, client centred approach which is led by the County Council. Since its establishment, twenty nine adults and thirty one children have exited from homeless to long term tenancies. The breakdown of this is eight adults and twelve children to Approved Housing Bodies (8 units), nine adults and seven children to HAP Private Rented (7 units), one adult and one child to Short-term Lease (1 unit), eleven adults and eleven children into Local Authority Housing (10 units).

Speaking at the December meeting of the Social Development Strategic Policy Committee (SPC), Business/Commercial representative, William Cahir questioned how many numbers the HAT start with in February and details on the “average stay particularly with children”.

“My recollection is 63 adults at the end of January between 35-40 children,” Etain McCooey of the local authority’s housing section replied. “One lady was there two years, another a year and a half, they are part of the group we have managed to rehouse”.

Cahir asked, “How quickly are we getting children into longer term accommodation. What is the average stay”. “We try to move on families and individuals who are houseless as quickly as possible. I don’t have the exact figures. The shortest stay was a few weeks. It takes time to source accommodation, we have to take into account all of those on the social housing list,” McCooey answered.

Cllr Mark Nestor (FF) sought clarification from Council officials having noticed 29 departed emergency accommodation, “It seems strange that they can leave that and go into rental accommodation straight away. There is also an issue with rough sleepers that I would like answered, there have been reports that members of the Council were removing bedding or sleeping bags belonging to homeless people sleeping in the town of Ennis”.

His claim on the removal of bedding was unanswered but McCooey outlined, “Anybody accessing the services has to have a social housing application. We take all details at the desk, they are given a number of weeks to fill out the form and come back. The screening process helps us to see what their options are. The threshold in relation to being approved for social housing does apply and is applied by legislation. HAP support helped people go from social housing to rental”.

Community and voluntary representative, Trudy Leyden queried, “Have you changed the procedure for when homeless people present themselves. Is it pre-booked now as opposed to giving them vouchers. Are people being told there isn’t room for them”. She was told that the procedure has been altered and vouchers were provided by the Department of Social Protection.

“Are people being turned away,” Leyden repeated. “We’re not turning people away,” senior executive officer Siobhán McNulty stated. “We have a limited number of emergency beds. We did put out an advertisement this week to see if we could increase our number of beds. We are working with private suppliers to try increase that. We do our utmost to support people, we are asking people if they have alternative arrangements out of necessity”.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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