A new report suggests there may be too many volunteer groups in Dublin providing hot food to people who are homeless, while there are unmet needs in other areas.
It also said the HSE and FSAI may need to be involved in managing the growth in on-street provision of food to homeless people by volunteers.
A report, conducted on behalf of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), also found that funding levels for homeless day services — often seen as the first port of call for those at risk — dropped as a percentage of overall expenditure on homeless services, which has soared in recent years.
Interviewees for the report, published by the DRHE, included representatives from the Capuchin Day Centre, Focus Ireland, Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI), the HSE and Dublin City Council, among other organisations, although only providers of government-funded day services were interviewed and no clients of homeless services were spoken with.
It said that between 2014 and 2018 a total of just over €17m was spent on the provision of day services for homeless people in the Dublin region by central and local government and managed by the DRHE.
"However total public spending on homelessness in the Dublin region increased by significantly more in this period and therefore the proportion of this which was devoted to day services declined from 5.9% to 4.0% between 2014 and 2018," it said.
Interviewees argued convincingly that the need for day services has grown in line with the expanding homeless population but that funding has not increased in parallel.
According to the report: "The only day service area in which there appears to be significant over-provision in Dublin currently is food services. This is due primarily to the increase in the on-street provision of food to homeless people by the informal and entirely volunteer-led services which have emerged in Dublin in recent years.
"Although there is no doubt that the volunteers who provide these services do so with the best possible intentions to help homeless people, there is little evidence that these additional food services are required."
Interviewees agreed that there is a need for better strategic planning of day services provision, adding: "There are insufficient numbers of comprehensive day services – which provide the full suite of services required by homeless clients including: outreach, engagement, individual support, medical and addiction treatment, group activities and housing support.
It recommended an overhaul of the system with greater clarity as to service provision and funding and ultimately the establishing of "comprehensive, accessible day service hubs" through a tender process.
It also said: "The DRHE should work with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and HSE which are responsible for regulating food service provision to devise a strategy to manage the growth in on-street provision of food to homeless people by volunteers."
The report, titled Day Services for People Who are Homeless in Dublin: A review commissioned by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), was written by Joanne Kelleher and Michelle Norris of the School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice at University College Dublin.
It comes as the latest monthly homelessness figures show there were 8,702 people in emergency accommodation in August - a fall of just 26 compared with the figure for July.
The latest figures showed 6,082 adults and 2,620 children were homeless, with 69% of those in emergency accommodation in the Dublin area.
Outside of Dublin the area with the highest number of people who were homeless in August was Cork, where 400 people were in emergency accommodation.
The Dublin Simon Community responded to the latest Homelessness Report with a warning that single homelessness in Dublin will break 3,000 by Christmas.
The charity said while there had been a 13% decrease in total homelessness in Dublin when compared with the same period for 2019, single person homelessness has grown by 100% over the last four years.
An outreach service which works with people from central and eastern Europe who are homeless have seen a surge in demand for its services.
Barka Ireland is described in a new report as a small, single-purpose organisation focussed solely on supporting migrants, whose staff conduct outreach on the streets and also visit other day services in Dublin such as Merchants Quay, the Capuchin Day Centre, and the Lighthouse to engage with homeless people from Eastern Europe.
A report published by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) showed that the number of clients Barka has assisted hs soared in recent years, from 196 in 2017 to 446 last year.
However, the number of people they have helped to repatriate has remained reasonably stable: of the 77 people it helped repatriate last year, 65 were homeless.
According to the report, Day Services for People Who are Homeless in Dublin: A review commissioned by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), 65% of the clients of Barka’s day service were homeless in 2019 "and the interviewee from this organisation estimated that all of the remainder are insecurely housed".
According to the report, written by Joanne Kelleher and Michelle Norris of the School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice at University College Dublin:
The interviewee from Barka said: "A change is often only possible when they leave Dublin because it’s here where they have, you know, the network of friends, so-called friends, but it’s friends to steal with, to drink with".
According to the report: "They also pointed out that in their view, addiction counselling is only effective when conducted in one’s native language. On this basis Barka helps clients with the costs of repatriation to their home country, supports them on this journey and enables them access detox and rehab services when they arrive there."