Thursday, 4 November 2021
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
Homeless Persons Supports
I welcome the Minister of State. This issue relates to homelessness and young people. If the various controversies relating to homelessness in the past few months - and I do not intend to go into them here - have taught us anything, it is that we need to be constantly vigilant to ensure that those experiencing homelessness are given all the supports they need, that there is no exploitation of them or their vulnerabilities and that the necessary protections, including legislative protection, Government protection and protection from the institutions of the State, are afforded to them at every level. I know there is a high-level homeless task force whose business is under way. I acknowledge the enormous amount of work of the Peter McVerry Trust, the Dublin Simon Community, Focus Ireland, Threshold, Crosscare, Depaul, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive and, for that matter, the local authorities, which do a tremendous amount of work. People are not aware of the extent of the work a lot of the local authorities do in co-ordinating homelessness initiatives, nor are they aware of the work of the Minister of State's Department. I am glad to say I have had opportunities to pick up the phone and talk directly to very senior staff in his Department with responsibility for homelessness and housing generally. They have always been responsive and have got back to me, including outside of office hours, and they have assisted these people to get into appropriate homes and care.
What am I asking in the few minutes available to me? I think we know that young people are at a crucial point in their personal, emotional, cognitive and social development. It is a difficult transitional period for many of them but it is more difficult for people coming out of direct provision, hostels, institutions or care centres, where they are meant to be cared for, protected and supported. Such people are leaving an institution or an institutional support system rather than a functional family situation. We know the huge issues facing homeless people. Their needs relate to issues ranging from childhood experiences to poor mental health and problems with drugs or alcohol, and in many cases a combination of all those issues. These are therefore vulnerable people. As I said, many of them are leaving State care, detention or direct provision and others are from migrant or ethnic groups. They need our support.
I will leave the Minister of State with this. I am deeply concerned about the practice of young people being placed in inappropriate accommodation - including emergency accommodation - with adults where they are at risk in the broadest sense of the word "risk". These are vulnerable people, with the State knowing they are vulnerable, and they are placed in situations of risk, intimidation and exploitation. If the Minister of State talks to any of the agencies I have mentioned, they will tell him the same. I am therefore trying to find out how the youth homelessness strategy is working, how it is going and when we will have a definite strategy in place to address and tackle what is a very difficult set of circumstances for young people?