Dublin City Council CEO criticised following comments on homeless tents in Dublin 3 months ago

Dublin City Council CEO criticised following comments on homeless tents in Dublin

The Dublin City Council CEO said homeless tents add to the perception that there is "an edginess about the city".

Dublin City Council CEO Owen Keegan's recent comments regarding homeless tents in the capital have been criticised by charities and TDs.

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Appearing on Newstalk's The Hard Shoulder on Monday, Keegan was asked about anti-social behaviour in the city.

In response, he said: "We've had evidence of congregating groups of young people... drinking and causing a whole lot of low level anti-social behaviour so I think all that adds up and creates a perception that Dublin isn't a family-friendly place or friendly for women.

"I think that's something we have to be very concerned about and then there are other aspects like the proliferation of tents.

"I'll get into trouble for saying this but we don't think people should be allowed sleep in tents when there's an abundance of supervised accommodation in hostels.

"There's a massive pressure to allow people, you know, just camp on the street and that adds to that perception of an edginess about the city."

When the point was raised with Keegan that some people sleeping in tents may not feel safe in accommodation, he responded: "I don't accept that. I think being out on the street in a tent objectively is much less safe than being in a professionally managed hostel."

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast on Tuesday, homelessness campaigner Fr Peter McVerry called Keegan's argument "simplistic".

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"What Owen says is correct in one sense, there are beds available every night for people who want them but it's a simplistic argument.

"We have to ask why do some people not go into those homeless shelters... While some of the emergency accommodation is of excellent quality... much of it is unfit for purpose.

"Much of it is shared accommodation where you have four, five, six or more people sharing a room and the biggest complaint I get from homeless people is they wake up in the morning, the people they're sharing the room with are gone and so have all their belongings.

"The second biggest complaint is that they wake up in the middle of the night and people in the room are injecting heroin or smoking crack cocaine.

"People who are drug-free or people who are trying to stay off drugs do not want to go into these hostels.

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"Some of these emergency hostels are superspreader events of drug use. People have relapsed back into drug use or have started drug use... because they were in those hostels."

He also cited feuding among homeless groups and the fact that some homeless people have dogs as reasons they may avoid homeless shelters.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Local Government Denise Mitchell labelled Keegan’s comments as "regrettable and unhelpful".

Mitchell said in a statement: “Owen Keegan’s comments on the use of tents by homeless people in Dublin City for accommodation were totally unwarranted.

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“Their circumstances are challenging enough without being further stigmatised by unhelpful commentary.

“There are many legitimate reasons why people choose to sleep in tents instead of emergency accommodation.

“People who are in recovery from addiction or people struggling with mental health issues often feel unsafe in the dormitory-style emergency accommodation that tends to be on offer.

“So for Owen Keegan to say that he does not think people should be allowed to sleep in tents is regrettable.

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“The fact that people feel they have no other option is symptomatic of the government’s failure to fund and resource high quality emergency accommodation where it is required.

“We urgently need to see the Programme for Government commitment to end the use of dormitory-style accommodation accelerated.

“We also need to see an independent inspection regime introduced for both public and private emergency accommodation providers to make sure what is currently in use is fit for purpose.”

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