Thursday, 10 September 2020
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCathaoirleach. I wish to raise the conditions for people who have become homeless and are living in emergency accommodation. We spend €2 million every week on private emergency temporary accommodation for people who have become homeless. Increasingly, there is a reliance on private for-profit providers when it when it comes to hostels for people who have become homeless. There is a complete lack of regulation and independent inspection of these private, for-profit hostels. As a result of that, we have seen some degrading and dehumanising rules enforced in some, but not all, the private, for profit hostels.
Some of these rules include, for example, people being told that they are not allowed to stop for a chat with other people who live there, which is an absolute and fundamental breach of their human rights. There has also been a report in the media this week of a privately-run hostel where a woman had died and the other people living in the hostel were instructed that they were not allowed to talk about the death. There have been other rules where people have been told when they are moving in that there is a limit on them to bringing in two bags only. This applies to people who may have to bring all of their possessions with them on becoming homeless and has resulted in them, in that distraught state, having to get rid of much of their limited possessions.
We know that people who are in vulnerable and are in vulnerable situations are often terrified to assert their rights and to make complaints.
They have already had a shattering experience and this is adding to it.
We know the HSE cut funding for community mental health teams that work with homeless people by 13%. According to research done by Dublin InQuirer and Amárach Research on people who are homeless and in hostels, 61% of respondents said that conditions and privacy were poor and 89% said that they had experienced bullying or intimidation. What is the Minister of State, and the Government, proposing to do about that? It is not good enough to say that this is a matter for the for-profit hostel providers, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, DRHE, or the other homeless executives. The Government is responsible for this area. We are investing significant taxpayer funds into this accommodation and we have reports of very serious breaches of basic human rights taking place in taxpayer-funded accommodation for people who are in a vulnerable position and need to be supported and helped sometimes to access permanent accommodation. This type of treatment undermines the efforts people are making to get back into permanent accommodation. It is a form of shaming. It is utterly unacceptable. I do not believe there is a Deputy in this House, or a member of Government, who would stand over it. I ask the Minister of State directly what he, and the Government, are doing to sort out this issue and to bring independent inspection and regulation into for-profit hostels.