Housing Protests in Cork

(note: Homeless services in Cork are provided jointly between City and County)

Statement released today by the Housing Actions Group

The protest is to support families that are once again the victims of the senseless homeless policy being followed by Cork City & County Councils.

We campaigned strongly for the closure of the Homeless Persons Unit at Drinan Street and were happy to see it close it doors on 21st January.

Housing Actions Group spokesperson, Cllr Diarmaid Ó Cadhla commented:

“The facility at Drinan Street was like something imagined in a Charles Dickens novel, it was dark and miserable, there was no bathroom, no family space, no privacy, it was authoritarian and disrespectful – it should have been closed years ago.”

However, when Drinan Street was closed and services users re-directed to temporary facilities based in City Hall it was bungled:

Firstly, there was a complete change of staff – up to now the service was administered by the Department of Social Protection (DSP), now it has moved to Council staff only.  This change alone was bound to cause disruption, but there was also a rule change and nobody was notified about it.

The rule change is that City Hall only pays for emergency accommodation that it sources, whereas the DSP did so on an ongoing basis.

Throughout the past week homeless families and individuals have been presenting to City Hall, expecting continuity, but their nightmare only got worse.  One young woman was abandoned to walk the streets for a night, and a number of families have been removed from apartment or other child-friendly accommodation and forced into B&Bs, without even cooking facilities.

It was common practice at Drinan Street for a homeless person/family to find their own emergency accommodation and then to  return with receipts and be financially supported.

Cllr Diarmaid Ó Cadhla, who has helped families trying to resolve these issues said:

“This change in practice only revealed itself when families arrived at City Hall with their receipts, only to be denied payment.  Families are being sent to B&B accommodation costing more to our state than the existing supports – there is no logic to it.”

“It is not good enough for the administration at City Hall to deal with families in such arbitrary manor, if the changeover was properly planned then these issues could have been avoided.  We might expect teething problems with any major change, but proper planning would have provided a means to deal with the unpredicted, to ensure that no family experienced such trauma and ultimate reduction in their living standards.”

“One sorry aspect to this situation is the indifference shown by nearly all the Council members, city and county, they have allowed the housing crisis to deepen without any meaningful challenge to it.”