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Thursday, 11th April 2024

Family with nine year old child had to sleep in car for over two weeks

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Councillor Joanna Byrne.

Joanna Byrne tells Council to “get real” and increase capacity for homeless

Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne has told Louth County Council they need to “get real” about the need to increase their capacity to provide shelter for homeless people.

Cllr Byrne, who is a consistent advocate on the issue of homelessness, told of two cases she was dealing with where people had no option but to sleep in their cars because no emergency accommodation or B&B beds were available.

In one case a single man had to sleep in his car while in the other a family including a nine year old child with additional needs who had to sleep in their car for over two weeks before they were offered emergency accommodation.

“Both of these cases were engaging with the Council’s homeless team but there were no emergency beds, B&B beds or family hub places available” said Councillor Byrne. “To leave a child sleeping in a car for over two weeks is an absolute indictment of this Council” she added.

“I acknowledge there has been a more successful hands-on approach from the homeless officers in the Council over the past two years and that is to be commended, but we need to be realistic about the need to increase capacity and it is critical we get this extended as a matter of urgency.”

Cllr Byrne said “If it means going cap in hand to the Department of Housing or re-allocating funds internally then that’s what we must do."

The Council’s Director of Services for Housing, Ger Murphy, told Cllr Byrne he was aware of the case with the child sleeping in the car and, whilst there were circumstances out of the Council’s control that led to this particular situation arising, he assured Cllr Byrne that his team were working to find an urgent resolution to this case. The family has since been offered emergency accommodation.

Also acknowledging that there is a growing number of cases presenting on a monthly basis, mostly families losing tenancies and the constraints on the private rental market, the Director committed to reviewing the matter but aired caution that increased capacity will bring a further increase in presentations.

The Director also outlined how Louth's homeless section is the regional lead for Louth, Cavan and Monaghan and they are continuously seeking emergency accommodation for the entire area.

Councillor Byrne requested that this be kept under review for discussion again next month and if there is no improvement in the situation she will be urging the Council to open critical talks with the Housing Minister on the matter.

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