The State must now provide funding to allow a rehab charity open a stepdown facility in Cork after a breakthrough in a stand-off which has seen the property lying idle for almost a decade.
The call came after the HSE finally signalled its support for Cuan Mhuire’s proposal to open a 16-bed facility on the city’s Western Rd designed to break the cycle of homelessness.
Fine Gael senator Colm Burke said it is essential that the estimated €300,000 annual running costs is sanctioned to ensure the facility can open by January 1.
Fianna Fáil city councillor Fergal Dennehy said it is scandalous that the building has been lying idle during a homeless crisis.
“The bureaucracy preventing this facility from opening must stop. We have people sleeping on the streets who could be availing of services provided by a facility like this,” he said.
The HSE and Cork City Council have each side-stepped responsibility for funding the project, with the HSE favouring a step-up project.
In a briefing to local politicians in recent days, the HSE said it is now “supportive” of the proposed stepdown project for Cuan Mhuire clients exiting the charity’s residential detox and rehab programmes.
A spokesperson for Cuan Mhuire welcomed the HSE’s statement but said: “We now need to sit down and formulate a plan to provide funding for this project to open it.
"The property is in turnkey condition and could start accommodating people almost immediately.
"We have 300 people waiting for six detox beds in our facility in Bruree. The absence of a stepdown facility like this in Cork is causing difficulty by preventing us from moving people out of primary treatment."
The earmarked property was mothballed just months after its purchase by Cuan Mhuire in 2007 because the charity couldn’t secure state funding to open it.
During a visit to the idle building in September 2017, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin criticised the “pass-the-parcel approach” to funding it given the homeless and housing crisis.
The next month, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said such issues are “not difficult problems to solve”.
Cuan Mhuire, founded by Sr Consilio, provides stepdown, or transition, houses in Dublin, Limerick, Galway, and Monaghan.
Almost half of those who avail of Cuan Mhuire’s treatment services have been homeless at the time of admission, and almost a third have nowhere to go once treatment finishes.
A charity spokesman said the proposed facility would provide 6,000 bed nights in Cork annually, and would deliver immediate savings of some €180,000 in the cost of providing emergency accommodation, and even greater long-term savings to the State by preventing long-term homelessness.