Tuesday, 26 November 2002
Dáil Eireann Debate
450. Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government the steps he is proposing to take to achieve a 50% reduction in the overall numbers of homeless people by the end of 2005. [23289/02]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government (Mr. N. Ahern): An Agreed Programme for Government contains a commitment to ensure that homelessness is tackled in a co-ordinated manner in all parts of the country and that the comprehensive homeless strategies now in place are implemented. While our objective is to reduce the level of homelessness as far as possible the programme does not include the specific target level of reduction referred to in the question.
One of the key requirements of the Government's integrated strategy on homelessness was that local three year action plans would be drawn up by homeless fora, with representatives of the local authority, health board and voluntary sector, to detail how accommodation, health, settlement and welfare services will be provided to homeless persons by all of the agencies involved. Most of these action plans and associated local targets have now been completed and they provide a clear framework for the planning and delivery of support and services to the homeless. The remaining few plans are in the process of being finalised by local authorities and health boards and should be adopted shortly.
A wide range of additional accommodation, ranging from emergency night shelter accommodation to long-term sheltered accommodation to enable homeless persons move out of emergency accommodation into long-term accommodation that is more suited to their needs, has been provided in recent years and more will be provided as part of the full implementation of the action plans.
Substantial additional funding has been made available as part of the homeless strategy. Capital funding for the direct provision by local authorities of accommodation for homeless persons is  being doubled from €25.4 million to €50.8 million over the period 2001-05. Current funding for homeless services by local authorities has increased substantially from €12.6 million in 1999 to an expected €43 million this year. In addition, funding is available to the voluntary sector under my Department's capital assistance scheme towards the provision of accommodation for homeless persons.
The prevention of homelessness is also being addressed. The main aim of the homeless preventative strategy, which was launched in February 2002, is to ensure that no one is released from any type of State care without the appropriate measures in place to ensure that they have a suitable place to live with the necessary supports, if needed. This strategy was prepared by my Department in conjunction with the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Education and Science, and Health and Children under the auspices of the Cross Department Team on Homelessness and contains measures to prevent homelessness among adult offenders, young offenders, those leaving mental health facilities and acute hospitals, and young people leaving care.
The implementation of both the integrated and preventative strategies is being monitored by the cross-Department team on homelessness with a view to identifying and addressing any obstacles to progress.
451. Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government the most recent figures for homelessness here, which were 5,234 in 1999, which was a doubling of the 1996 figures. [23290/02]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government (Mr. N. Ahern): The most recent assessment of housing needs, which included a count of the number of homeless persons, was carried out by local authorities at the end of March this year. The data in relation to local authority housing waiting lists, which has been finalised and published, shows that a total of 2,468 homeless households were considered to be in need of local authority housing. This figure does not include persons who have been assessed as homeless by local authorities but who are not included on local authority housing lists because, for example, their need is not for local authority housing but rather for long-term supported accommodation.
My Department is currently finalising figures in relation to the total number of persons who have been assessed as homeless in each local authority area and this information will be published shortly.
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