Dáil Éireann - Volume 632 - 27 February, 2007

Written Answers. - Strategy on Homelessness.

Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress being made towards the elimination of homelessness by 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7402/07]

  Mr. N. Ahern: The Independent Review of the Implementation of Homeless Strategies, which I published last year and copies of which are available in the Oireachtas Library, examined the implementation of the Government’s Integrated and Preventative Homeless Strategies and concluded that the Integrated and Preventative Strategies should be amalgamated and revised.

The Review specifically recommended that the resultant revised strategy should have an overarching goal to eliminate long-term homelessness in Ireland by a defined date in the future and should include clearly defined objectives, actions, projected outcomes, timescales for delivery and an appropriate monitoring mechanism to track progress. The Government have accepted the broad thrust of the recommendations of the Independent Review and work is underway on the preparation of a revised and updated Strategy on Homelessness, having regard to the recommendations of the Independent Review.

The social partnership agreement Towards 2016 contains a commitment to the elimination of the long-term occupancy of emergency homeless accommodation by 2010. Indeed, it should also be noted that in Dublin the Homeless Agency had already defined as its overarching goal the elimination of long-term homelessness and the need to sleep rough in Dublin by 2010. In this context, it should be noted that long term is generally taken to mean any period greater than six months, i.e. that persons should not occupy emergency homeless accommodation for any longer than six months.

Very significant resources are being made available to address the issue of homelessness at national level in a comprehensive and co-ordinated manner. Since 2000, the Government through my Department and the Department of Health and Children have provided in the order of €450 million in capital and current funding nationally for the provision of accommodation and care related services for homeless people.

Recent assessments indicate that there has been a welcome decrease in the overall numbers of homeless persons in Dublin over recent years. Counted In 2005, the Homeless Agency’s most recent assessment of homelessness in the Dublin area was 1,361 comprising some 2,015 persons and that this represented a 19% reduction in the number of homeless households since the pre[892] vious assessment in 2002. This was comparable with the experience of the Dublin Homeless Persons Unit which saw a 20% decrease in the number of households presenting as homeless in the same period.

Nationally, through the vital work of the local homeless fora, there has also been significant progress in reducing the numbers of homeless persons. In the Housing Needs Assessment 2005, local authorities recorded a 46% fall in the numbers of homeless persons nationally, from 5,581 persons in 2002 to 3,031 persons in 2005.

There is now a wide range of accommodation and services for homeless persons across the country — from emergency hostels, transitional accommodation programmes to outreach and resettlement services and long term supported accommodation. A key task and a particular focus of attention in the future is to assist homeless persons who can live independently into mainstream long-term accommodation as soon as possible. This will involve the refocusing of efforts on the provision of accommodation in the social, voluntary and private rented housing sectors. The Rental Accommodation Scheme has significant potential in this area. This increased supply, together with appropriate outreach and resettlement support is essential in assisting people out of homelessness altogether.