Minister O’Brien joins Inner City Helping Homeless on rough sleeper outreach

31st October, 2020

Last night I accompanied one of Inner City Helping Homeless outreach units around Dublin. We met a lot of people. Too many. As with all of us the people we met have their own stories, their own set of events that brought them to where they are. We met quite a few couples. Couples clinging on to the one person in their life they were finding some level of safety and security with. We met Travellers, we met a Roma man finding sanctuary on the grounds of a church. We met a disproportionate number of migrants.

What was striking about the outreach shift was the predictability of where people would be. People are not hard to find, and people are not unamenable to help. Yes, in many cases their needs are multiple and complex but not unmeetable by a long shot.

There is a pathway away from the streets for rough sleepers. It involves consistent relationship building over a period of time, connection to wrap-around services and immediate availability of suitable and stable accommodation.

What was also evident was the importance and value of the relationship between the individual and the outreach worker. And herein lies a key point. The importance of engagement and trust.

There is a pathway away from the streets for rough sleepers. It involves consistent relationship building over a period of time, connection to wrap-around services and immediate availability of suitable and stable accommodation. Any engagement with services by a rough sleeper should be seen as a huge opportunity to change that person’s life not just the provision of a temporary bed for one night on a rolling basis.

Rough sleeping is the sharp end of the crisis but in all cases the answer to homelessness is a home, this is why the Housing First approach was identified for expansion in the Programme for Government and why funding was increased for it in Budget 2021, its an approach I pushed for and support.

From experience of working in homeless services in the past I am not naive enough to think that the answer is anything but challenging work and the provision of resource-intensive services. But the simple point it that such work and resourcing will save lives. I am pushing for a scaling up of ambition, commitment and resourcing to make the wrap-around services available to all who need them.

I believe the public would strongly support such a move. One of the reasons ICHH has such strong public support, grew so quickly and has such a large volunteer base is that (as with many charities) it served and serves as a practical expression of public concern and frustration, in this case with the growth and persistence of the homelessness problem, especially rough sleeping. The winter campaigns of the likes of Simon, Peter McVerry and Focus will no doubt also see huge public engagement.

I have asked and will continue to press the Minister for Housing to do everything in his power to ensure that the services and accommodation that are needed are made available to those who need them most as soon as possible. All of us know intuitively, even our children, that the presence of someone sleeping on the street, is in of itself a call for help. I’m pushing for a scaling up of the ambition and resourcing in the response to that call.

Tags: Homeless