Jordan Norris

The lack of facilities available to homeless people in West Waterford was condemned at the April meeting of the Dungarvan / Lismore District of Waterford City & County Council.

The matter was raised by Sinn Féin Councillor Conor McGuinness, who has been vocal on the issue on past occasions. He noted that Waterford Council have done a fantastic job in very difficult circumstances, helping people going through tough times, but lamented that the service is not always accessible.

Conor McGuinness has been vocal on the issue in recent months.

“That’s not necessarily the fault of the services. I understand that they’re located in Waterford under a shared-roof system with other agencies, but there is a deficit of accessibility for people in West Waterford in accessing those services. Particularly out-of-hours, but even during the week. With reduced public transport as a result of the pandemic and in general, it’s difficult for people to access the services especially when they’re going through one of the most difficult, trying and stressful periods of their life when they are at risk of homelessness or actually experiencing it. I’d like to reiterate the point that I’ve made several times in the past that there would be an outreach office of some kind available to people in Dungarvan for homeless services. People could then access the services and supports that are offered and offered very very well in Waterford City.”

Cllr. John Pratt of the Labour Party echoed the sentiments of Cllr. McGuinness and said that it is ‘wrong’ that if someone in West Waterford becomes homeless that Waterford City accommodations and services remain the only option available to them.

Cllr. John Pratt says there should be a service in Dungarvan ‘at minimum’.

“To me, it’s very wrong. It could be someone from Tallow, Dungarvan, anywhere – and I think at a minimum, there should be a service in Dungarvan to facilitate those in the West of the county. Not all homeless cases are drugs related and people can fall on hard times through no faults of their own. Anytime I’ve ever dealt with the services of the Council, they have been phenomenal. We need to look at the bigger picture. Some people won’t actually present themselves as homeless because they do not want to relocate to Waterford City. We need to get to grips with the extent of homelessness in Waterford.”

Cllr. Thomas Phelan (Labour) said that it should be relayed publicly who one should call if in a situation where facing homelessness, particularly out-of-hours.

“Many of these people are in the direst of straits and the more we can do for them, the better.”

Director of Services for Housing at Waterford City & County Council, Ms. Catherine Horan, noted the concern with regard the location of homeless services in the county, but said that one of the big successes of the services available is that it is a ‘big one-stop multi-service agency.’

“It’s been hugely successful in working on issue of homelessness. I can get some statistics in relation to the number of people from the West availing of the service but the success to date has been a very comprehensive assessment of anyone presenting as homeless. The feasibility of replicating that as an outreach office probably isn’t ideal. They provide very good phone support and there are housing staff in Dungarvan also offering advice. One of the first things when someone presents as homeless is that they are accessed with regard to available social housing supports. There are a number of emergency beds both city and county.”

Ms. Horan promised that she would gather statistics regarding the city/county ratio of services available and would circulate her findings to the members of the Council.