At around 9pm on Friday 17 January, Josh Daly and his partner Jade O’Connor had just put their two youngest children to bed, when Gardaí arrived.
They were there to remove the family from the Anna Livia “family hub” on O’Connell Street. Earlier that day, they had argued with a member of staff.
Daly says it all kicked off when one of his kids had nipped from the kitchen upstairs to grab some plates, and had no shoes on – which was against the hostel’s policy.
O’Connor, just out of the shower and so wanting privacy, argued with a staff member who followed their child up to the room and wouldn’t close the door, says Daly.
“The manager said we’d to leave the building that day, that was the end of it,” says Daly. “The council had cancelled our booking.”
Daly says he called Dublin Region Homeless Executive and was told that it was the opposite – that the family hub operators had cancelled it.
“So after all that, I said we’re not leaving, we have nowhere else to go. We haven’t done anything wrong and we are within our rights,” says Daly, on the phone last Wednesday.
Staff at the Anna Livia family hub hung up the phone twice yesterday when contacted about the situation.
A spokesperson for the DRHE said it wouldn’t comment on the specifics of what happened “to respect the family’s privacy”.
However, the spokesperson said the DRHE had consulted with the local authority, and that it had become unsustainable for the family to stay in the hostel. They were offered alternative accommodation on 17 January, and declined two alternative offers, they said.
They moved “by mutual consent” to another placement on 21 January, they said.
Daly says he was evicted on the grounds of “intimidation”, but he says that was because he complained. He says the felt DRHE didn’t follow its procedures when he was removed, and in following up on his complaint.
“I goes look, ‘I’m not leaving, you didn’t follow your procedures. I never got a written warning,’” says Daly.
But there isn’t a set process when it comes to those who are living in family hubs.
“Exclusions are managed on a case-by-case basis,” said a spokesperson for the DRHE. There’s no overarching procedure, they said.
Family hubs were rolled out in 2017 for families who are homeless, to try to get them out of hotels – with the idea that they would be more “secure and stable”, and better for kids than living in hotel rooms.
But those who stay in family hubs aren’t tenants. So they don’t have the same protections as those in the private rental sector under the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).
Complaints and evictions are dealt with differently by different operators. “There is no specific set of rules across all organisations,” says Francis Doherty, head of communications at the Peter McVerry Trust, which runs five family hubs in the city. “Each operator has its own policy and procedure.”
At the hubs the Peter McVerry Trust runs, people can complain straight to a staff member, over the phone, or to the DRHE, Doherty says. Peter McVerry Trust try to sort it out.
Often, he says, complaints are because of clashes with between those staying in hubs. Doherty says they’ll tend to move families between their hubs if they don’t get on in one of them. After that, they’ll be transferred to a hub run by somebody else.
When it comes to “exclusions” – in other words, when a person or a whole family is told they have to leave – that decision comes down to the service provider, says a DRHE spokesperson.
As of September 2018, there were six different service providers operating 17 family hubs in the Dublin region, a Dublin City Council report says.
A council report says the Anna Livia hostel is run by a private operator, as well as Focus Ireland.
However, Roughan Mac Namara, spokesperson for Focus Ireland, said “Our position is we don’t support hubs and did not apply to run any. The few we’re involved in were just changed from emergency accommodation where were already supporting the people. We have called for #HomesNotHubs.”
Better Adjudication Needed?
One of the chief problems is that Josh Daly and his family were not given time to have the complaints investigated – both the complaints Daly made, and the reasons given for his removal, says Alex Criado, spokesperson for housing support group Dublin Central Housing Action.
“If there was a complaint about Josh, he shouldn’t have been evicted immediately,” says Criado, “There hasn’t been any formal process for these disputes. There was no formulation for him going through any type of adjudication.”
It’s the second time somebody has been evicted from Anna Livia recently, says Criado. Another family were told to leave on Christmas Eve.
“The hub can go at any point and say that we have cancelled the payment, therefore the management can say look you shouldn’t be here. You’re trespassing,” Criado says.
Family hubs are based on licences rather than tenancies, says Daithí Doolan, the Sinn Féin councillor who heads the council’s housing committee. That means there are different rules and responsibilities.
“I think the best course of action is to ensure that we have providers and contractors of the best possible standard that are professionally trained, that understand what they’re doing and have a caring background,” says Doolan.