Councillor Joanna Byrne.
Councillor Joanna Byrne has been a constant champion of the homeless and most vulnerable in Drogheda and the wider county and she raised the issue once again at this morning’s Louth County Council meeting in the light of the Coronavirus crisis.
The Sinn Féin Councillor sought assurances from Council officials that necessary measures are in place to protect what she calls "some of the most vulnerable" people in Louth.
She pointed out that, with the best will in the world, people in emergency accommodation in Hotel rooms or B&B’s have no room to maintain safe distancing practices
Cllr Byrne commended the housing department for swiftly outlining measures last week to re-assess finances of tenants in both Council and HAP houses throughout the County, whose financial circumstances may have changed as a result of job losses and temporary lay-offs due to Covid-19.
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However, she was concerned that she had received no communications regarding precautionary measures to protect those in emergency accommodation.
Cllr Byrne said, that, with most hotels and B&B's closed and many more closing by the day, she wanted to know what contingency measures have been put in place for those currently in accommodation in B&B's and family hubs in the event their current accommodation closing.
She also asked about what plans are in place should somebody in either scenario fall victim to this virus. How will people be segregated or self-isolation facilitated?"
"I want to go one step further here” Cllr Byrne went on to say. “We all know there are people sleeping on park benches, in doorways, under bridges etc for many reasons.
“Some of these people have come through cold winter nights on the streets, they may have compromised immune systems and be prime candidates to contract the Corona Virus and in turn may spread it to anyone they come in contact with.
“I understand resources may be strained but I'm asking the Homeless Department to reach out to NGO's on the ground and put out a call for those who haven't engaged with the services to present themselves and to be assisted irrespective of their circumstances and rules they may not be able to adhere to perhaps as a result of addiction or whatever their downfall may be.
“People sleeping rough are up there with some of the most vulnerable in our society, they have no supports and these unprecedented times call for unprecedented allowances in this instance.”
Responding, Council Director Paddy Donnelly said that the Council can only deal with those that present themselves and engage with the services, and anybody willing to do that will, as always, be assisted.
He also said that risk assessments had been carried out throughout last week on all emergency accommodation being used by the Council use and some residents are being moved to alternative emergency accommodation to facilitate physical distancing for the period of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Councillor Byrne said she is mostly working from home at present but is still contactable by email, telephone or through her social media channels.
“I stand willing to try help anybody who may be sleeping on the streets at this time and get some shelter particularly for these challenging times that lie ahead of us.”
“We are in in this together and we must ensure that no-one is left behind.”
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