Councillor Joanna Byrne.
A motion from Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne calling for additional homeless services to be provided in Drogheda for people with “entrenched alcohol and drug issues” was passed at last night’s Borough District of Drogheda meeting.
Cllr Byrne said that, whilst she recognised the phenomenal work Louth County Council and their Homeless liaison team do, she felt there was “an over-reliance” on the NGO's in the town at times.
“Louth is experiencing much higher presentations of homelessness than our neighbouring counties” Byrne said, “but I fear this is not a true reflection of how prevalent this issue is.”
“Many homeless people do not meet the criteria and rules of current solutions offered by the Local Authority, mainly down to battling addictions and therefore ending up on the streets. They are not included in any figures or homeless reports.”
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In a written response to her motion, Cllr Byrne was told that a multi-agency review is to be undertaken by the HSE and the Local Authority and if the need is confirmed, steps will be taken to open one.
Cllr Byrne asked Director of Service for Housing, Paddy Donnelly, how long this process would take, saying: “This is urgent, it can’t be allowed to drag on for years.”
Mr. Donnelly advised that the Council recognised the need and assured Cllr Byrne this would be a priority in 2019.
The motion was supported across all the parties and Independent Councillor Kevin Callan said that such a facility was badly needed in Drogheda.
Councillor Pio Smith who works with the Red Door Drugs and alcohol Programme on the Dublin Road said that many individual Councillors have given financial assistance and other help to local NGOs and that the Council has also helped fund an outreach worker to identify the extent of the problem.
Councillor Kenneth Flood said that people need to recognise that Drogheda has a “Dublin size” drugs issue but not the resources to deal with it.
Mayor Frank Godfrey said that it was a sad sight to see people sleeping in doorways, in the streets and in parks. “Louth County Council can only do so much” he said, “but funding must be made available from central government.”
Expressing her thanks for the cross-party support for her motion Cllr. Byrne re-iterated the fact that “there are people sleeping rough in the doorways and parks in Drogheda and this is solely down to them battling addictions like alcohol or drugs.”
She said that the current set-up of just a 'dry facility' in Drogheda is no longer adequate. “We need to be broad-minded enough to recognise Drogheda is evolving and so is our homeless situation, we also need a 'wet facility' to ensure we are meeting the needs of everybody experiencing homelessness.
“We can no longer leave anybody to sleep on our streets. If they have a roof over their heads they can then begin to access other services to help them with their other issues but this is the first step.
“A roof is a basic human right and the onus is on us as a Local Authority to provide that!"
Figures from the Department of Housing showed that 124 people in Louth accessed emergency accommodation during October.