THE Homeless Persons Unit is an undignified and an “inhumane” way of providing a service for homeless people in Cork and must be shut down, according to the Housing Action Group.
The group, which is led by county councillor Diarmaid Ó Cadhla, staged a picket of the unit in the city centre.
Most homeless people from the county are housed in emergency accommodation in the city under an interagency approach by Cork city and county councils. Anyone registering as homeless must engage with HSE and Department of Social Protection services at Drinan Street in the city. The facility also distributes payments to the homeless to cover the cost of emergency accommodation.
Mr Ó Cadhla has described the experience of registering as homelessness as “intimidating” and said many people receiving the payments for emergency accommodation are not using the money for that purpose. He said staff at the facility are “under pressure” due to the large numbers of people seeking assistance and has called for a new facility to be established at a different location in the city centre.
“Our demand is to close it down. The facility itself has no toilet and waiting room for kids and no play area.
“There is no privacy and everyone knows your business. There is standing room only and you are speaking through a hatch.
“Everyone can hear your business. It is completely disrespectful of people. We do need a homeless persons unit but this isn’t it. This should be shut down and a proper facility opened. There should be family rooms, private consulting rooms and privacy. Young kids should not be mixed with people who, due to the unfortunate aspect of homelessness, are full of alcohol or on drugs. They are mixing in the same waiting area as people with kids in buggies. It’s frightening for people.
“People who are using the services are down on their luck. What’s the point in giving them money? There should be rehabilitation first. People’s lives are broken.
“People are getting cheques here, supposedly for hostels, but not all of it is being spent on hostels, they are going straight to the early houses for a few pints. That is not addressing homelessness. It’s enabling it and allowing it to perpetuate,” he added.
Mr Ó Cadhla has urged the city and county councils to intervene and engage with the HSE and Department of Social Protection to establish a homelessness oversight group.
The latest available homelessness figures published by the Department of Housing for April show there are 424 registered homeless adults in the south-west — up by 42 based on the previous month with 86 families without a permanent home compared to 91 in March.