Wednesday, 18 November 2020
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I echo Senator Sherlock's remarks on the necessity for correct behaviour in controlling the virus. Given my experience of a committee meeting yesterday, Senators and Deputies are not complying with mask wearing and are showing blatant disregard for other Members as well as for the staff manning the committee rooms. We have repeatedly been told that visors are not appropriate.
I wish to raise the growing concern about the increase in the number of tragic and unnecessary deaths of homeless people. Fifty deaths of rough sleepers and people in emergency accommodation have been reported in Dublin alone, and we are yet to reach the rough winter months. Increases in deaths among people known to homeless services have been reported in Cork and Galway as well. In January, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, DRHE, stated that there had been 34 such deaths in 2019. On "Morning Ireland" yesterday, the DRHE revised that figure upwards to 49. We undoubtedly have a growing problem. These tragic and unnecessary deaths should not be happening and we need to do more to prevent them.
I welcome the Government's commissioning of a report, but it needs to act. We must see an end to dormitory-style accommodation. There is no place for it in this day and age. We must also see an increase in mental health and addiction supports for those experiencing homelessness. Covid has placed a significant strain on the mental health of many on this island, in particular the most vulnerable people living on our streets. We need a dramatic increase in tenancies under the Housing First policy in order to get people out of emergency accommodation. This model works and there is no reason it cannot be rolled out across the country. We need to introduce adult safeguarding reviews to ensure that, when someone dies, we fully understand the reasons for the death and address the problems in order to prevent it from happening to someone else.
People experiencing homelessness are among the most vulnerable in our society. We have an obligation to do much more to help them. I request that the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage attend the Seanad to outline what he and his Department are doing to ensure that we reduce the number of these tragic deaths.