Homelessness cost 'could be halved with less use of emergency accommodation'

Update: 12.27am The Government could halve the cost of the unprecedented homelessness crisis by relying less on emergency accommodation, a leading charity has said.

With the bill for the Dublin region running to about €134m this year, the Peter McVerry Trust said putting people up in hotels, hostels and B&Bs was expensive and inefficient.

Some 1,138 families with 2,416 children were in emergency accommodation in or around the capital in September.

Pat Doyle, the charity's chief executive, said supporting people with putting a roof over their head while giving them other social supports under the Housing First scheme is cheaper.

But he claimed that it gets less than 1% of the national homeless budget each year.

"We have said to Government all along that the solution has to be a housing-led one, yet we find ourselves constantly being asked to deliver greater levels of emergency accommodation," Mr Doyle said.

As the Peter McVerry Trust released its annual report for last year showing it worked with 4,584 people with an average age of 32, it said other countries put half the homelessness budget into Housing First schemes.

"In the past 10 years, Peter McVerry Trust's bed capacity has seen a 28-fold increase, and this winter we have been asked, and have committed, to put in place additional emergency capacity in the absence of alternative housing solutions," Mr Doyle said.

"This is very frustrating because we know that emergency accommodation is more expensive and less effective."

The Trust said it worked with Focus Ireland to help 1,201 people on the streets of Dublin and get 30 rough sleepers into their own accommodation.

It provided 140 new emergency accommodation beds, which it described as a necessary but insufficient intervention.

Some €6.4m was donated to the charity in 2016 and it had a total revenue, including state spending, of €17.7m.

In the report, founder Peter McVerry said the crisis has gone from worse to worse and the sense of outrage has been lost.

"Thousands of homeless children has become the norm and no longer shocks us," he said.

Update 8.40am: Peter McVerry warns Government that emergency accommodation won't solve homelessness

The Government is being warned that emergency accommodation won't solve the homeless crisis.

Campaigner Father Peter Mc Verry wants investment in long-term housing and support for tenants.

The charity which helped more than 4,500 people last year publishes its annual report today.

Father Mc Verry says we need more than a quick fix.

He said: "Opening emergency beds is not a solution to homelessness, it is a solution to rough sleeping and therefore it makes homelessness less visible and takes some of the pressure off Government.

"The solution to homelessness is to provide people with a home."

Earlier: Homeless charity the Peter Mc Verry Trust will publish its annual accounts today.

It says the Government needs to be more effective with its funding and shift the focus off emergency accommodation.

It is pushing its 'Housing First' strategy which says those who've been homeless long-term need treatment and support as well as a permanent home.

Last year the Peter Mc Verry Trust helped more than 4,500 people.

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