The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, TD, the Minister of State at the Department of Health with responsibility for Public Health, Well Being and the National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan TD, and President of the Irish Council for Social Housing and CEO of Peter McVerry Trust, Pat Doyle, today launched the Housing First National Implementation Plan for 2022-2026. It will provide 1,319 new supported tenancies for people who are homeless and who have complex additional needs.
Separately, later today the first meeting of the new National Homeless Action Committee will take place. This group has been established to drive actions on homelessness and includes all of the key Government Departments, agencies and voluntary organisations dealing with different aspects of homelessness. The group will work to accelerate the delivery of homeless supports and oversee implementation of inter-agency measures committed-to under Housing for All, the Government’s national plan on housing to 2030, published in September. Minister Darragh O’Brien is chairing the Committee, taking a direct role in leading its work.
Both publication of a new Housing First Implementation Plan and establishment of the National Homeless Action Committee are commitments in Housing for All, the Government’s new housing plan for Ireland to 2030.
Housing First launch
The Housing First programme is one of the key responses in ending long-term homelessness among those with complex health and mental health needs. It provides the most vulnerable of our homeless population with a home for life as well as with key wraparound health and social supports.
Under the plan, an additional 1,319 supported tenancies are to be delivered over the next five years. This will ensure that Housing First continues to operate and expand in every county of Ireland. It will involve an average of 264 new tenancies per annum, with the specific annual targets for each region now set out in the plan. These targets are based on analysis of need, which involved key stakeholders and was supported by the Housing Agency.
The Housing First Programme has already helped more than 600 long-term homeless individuals into their own homes for life, with wrap-around supports available to them to keep them in those homes. It is now operational in every county in Ireland and has exceeded the targets initially set out in the first National Implementation Plan (2018-2021).
Commenting Minister O’Brien said, “Housing First is a key tool in our armoury in getting to grips with the homelessness crisis in Ireland. This plan is participant centred with the principles of respect and compassion at its heart. The current Housing First plan has proven to be a big success and I really want to commend our partners in local authorities, the Department of Health, the HSE and the NGO sector, as well as the Probation Service, the Irish Prison Service and the Genio Trust, on their work on the programme. Housing First really is a true exemplar of an interagency approach to tackling a complex, all-of-Government issue, and as we look now to expand the programme we will maintain that approach and strengthen it further.”
Also speaking at the launch, Minister Frank Feighan stated, “From a health perspective, Housing First can be viewed as Sláintecare in action – the right care – mental health, physical health and addiction supports, in the right place – a person’s home, at the right time – now, not dependent on a waiting list. Providing people with a home of their own is the critical ingredient that enables the effective and timely delivery of health care services. It allows health care professionals to put in place the wrap around supports that people who are long-term homeless urgently require.”
Minister Feighan added, “Of particular concern as the Minister responsible for the National Drugs Strategy, is the connection between homelessness and drug and alcohol addiction. I have prioritised the development of integrated care pathways and harm reduction responses for people who are homeless for the period 2021-2025. By offering a case management response to Housing First clients, high risk drug and alcohol use can be reduced and a pathway provided towards rehabilitation and recovery.”
Pat Doyle, President of the Irish Council for Social Housing and CEO of Peter McVerry Trust added, “As an early adopter and major supporter of Housing First, Peter McVerry Trust has been working to create Housing First tenancies in Dublin since 2011. The success rate of the tenancies which have been created to date shows us that it is working and that it should be extended and indeed roll-out nationwide. I am pleased that Peter McVerry Trust is playing our part in this initiative and we will continue to support those who are most vulnerable in our communities.”
National Homeless Action Committee
Separately, the first meeting of the new National Homeless Action Committee takes place today. The Committee’s primary objective will be to bring together key Government Departments, agencies and stakeholders to oversee implementation of the homeless inter-agency measures committed to under Housing for All.
Membership of the Committee comprises key Government Departments and agencies dealing with Housing, Health, Education, Children, Social Protection, Justice and from the local government sector. Key voluntary organisations involved in tackling homelessness are also members, with representatives from Peter McVerry Trust, Dublin Simon Community, Focus Ireland, Threshold, DePaul, Crosscare and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Speaking ahead of the first meeting, Minister O’Brien, Chair of the Action Committee said: “Homelessness is a very complex issue. Something that is often said by those with lived experience of homelessness is that agencies should be better at working together. It is a cause of frustration when different agencies and services are not working together towards common goals and this is something I want to address.
“The Government has committed to working to eradicate homelessness by 2030. This is an ambitious goal, and one that requires the coordinated actions of a wide variety of agencies and stakeholders. The new structure will be a key body to focus on the delivery of actions,” he concluded.