Minister of State for Housing Damien English has said he is frustrated that the work being done to address the State’s homelessness and housing crises is not being recognised. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.
Minister of State for Housing Damien English has said he is frustrated that the work being done to address the State’s homelessness and housing crises is not being recognised.
Mr English said he was not “critical of the media” after remarking in the Dáil on Tuesday that the homelessness narrative “is damaging to Ireland’s reputation”.
“I’m just frustrated that the great work being done is not being recognised. A lot of the commentary is only negative,” he told reporters in Dublin on Wednesday.
“It would be wrong to have a person outside Ireland looking in, getting the impression from commentary there’s nothing being done there or the Government don’t care or social housing is not a priority. It absolutely is a priority.”
Mr English said the Government was not trying to hide or underplay the homelessness crisis. “We know there’s a crisis in relation to homelessness and housing, we know that and we’re not trying to hide that. We put all those figures out there.”
Asked about comments from the director of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive Eileen Gleeson, who said volunteers handing out food and clothing to long-term homeless people are not helping them, Mr English said she “didn’t mean any ill words to anybody”.
“It’s just she’s out there doing this every day of the week, so it’s about how do we co-ordinate it and try to make sure everyone’s on the same page here with the service,” he said.
He said volunteer groups should engage with State services to ensure a “more co-ordinated approach”.
Mr English was speaking at an exhibition celebrating the winners of the Community Housing Awards at the Irish Architectural Archive in Dublin on Wednesday.
“These people [VOLUNTEERS]who mean to do well and are doing great work going out every night with food and help, it’s how we can co-ordinate that,” he said. “There are some agencies out there that we would fund to provide these services, we would ask that anyone who is volunteering that they would engage with the system.”
The Community Housing Awards recognise excellence in the delivery of social housing from both housing associations and local authorities.
Clúid Housing Association was recognised for its Syrian Refugee Resettlement Project in Portlaoise.
Catherine Oakley Dickson, housing officer at Clúid, said Portlaoise was chosen to house the families because of its proximity to the Midland Regional Hospital and public transport to Dublin.
“We were given all the different families’ needs, of their make-up but all our families had health issues. We had one gentleman who had lost a limb, a couple of children who had cancer, Crohn’s disease,” she said.
The families came to Portlaoise in March 2015 and Ms Oakley Dickson said “the community has welcomed them with open arms”
“For the first year our resource worker organised a support service who met with the families every week and any needs that they had were dealt with or any trouble they might have had with the language barrier.
“We had an intercultural Ceili night as part of Culture Night and it was in the parish centre. The families are very much part of the community now.”
This year’s overall winner was the Fold Regeneration project on Ballygall Road East in Glasnevin in partnership with Dublin City Council.