In the last five weeks of 2015, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) paid €171,390 for the 100 night-time-only beds at the Brú Aimsir hostel on James Street, run by Crosscare at the time, according to its financial report for that year.
In the equivalent report for 2018, Brú Aimsir’s funding for those 12 months, then run by DePaul Trust, came to €3,940,717. Brú Aimsir now has 101 beds.
Those figures suggest that the average cost of a bed at the hostel for each of the final 38 nights of 2015 was €45, and that the figure rose to €107 per night in 2018.
But it’s really hard to say for sure. Because it’s unclear if those figures include any changes in the quality of beds, or the support services available, or if they cover renovations, perhaps.
Cost isn’t the only thing to consider when looking at services, says Green Party Councillor Patrick Costello.
“But it is an important thing that you can measure from year to year, the value for money,” he says.
“One of the biggest complaints that myself and other housing campaigners is that the cost going to hotels and hostels could build stupid amounts of public housing,” he says.
Breaking It Down
Working out something as simple as the rate DRHE pays per bed, and how that has changed over time, though, is far from simple.
In 2015, a hostel on Conyngham Road run by Peter McVerry Trust had 17 beds and received €149,262, according to the DRHE’s 2015 financial report. That’s €24 per bed per night.
But the hostel at Conyngham Road makes no appearance in the 2018 financial report.
Instead, those beds seem to be included within a €950,000 payment to John’s Lane – a hostel that was closed at the time – for 38 extra beds: 25 at Conyngham Road and the rest scattered around in other locations, put in place to replace the ones lost at John’s Lane.
The cost per night of these 38 replacement beds seem to have come to €68 in 2017 – if we are to divide 38 beds by €950,000. Why the almost three-fold increase in the cost of beds here?
Because that money is not solely for the John’s Lane replacement beds, says Francis Doherty, spokesperson for Peter McVerry Trust. It’s for operating costs for different beds, in different locations across the city depending on need, says Doherty.
Since it wasn’t for John’s Lane replacement beds, it’s not clear why the DRHE would label it that way. The DRHE has not responded to queries about this.
Emergency accommodation often moves from one building to another, says Francis Doherty, spokesperson for Peter McVerry Trust. Buildings used in 2017 might not be used again in 2018.
“We change the use or buildings,” Doherty said. “Initially everything went to Conyngham Road, plus additional capacity to a range of other sites.”
Last year, the 2018 financial report stated that the payment to Peter McVerry Trust is for “decommissioned beds for John’s Lane”, going someway to clarify that John’s Lane is no longer in use. However, the number of beds in use, or what type, remains unclear. The payment increased from €950,000 to €1,242,514.
That’s because DRHE asked the trust to put in extra homeless beds across different emergency accommodation sites during the year, says Doherty.
“The operating costs of these additional beds and the costs incurred in providing additional capacity for example furniture, linens, and white goods were added under the SLA [service level agreement] for John’s Lane West by the DRHE. This practice would reflect the changing needs in homelessness across the year and is common practice,” says Doherty.
In the 2015 DRHE financial report, R+G Administration, which runs emergency accommodation for families at 81/83 North Circular Road, is listed as having 22 beds, costing €556,500. That’s €69 per night per bed, per night.
In 2018, R+G Administration was paid €717,598 for the same hostel. Assuming there’s the same number of beds, that’s €89 per night. (DRHE didn’t respond to a query as to how many beds are there now.)
Again, it’s not clear if the costs listed above are solely for beds per night, though, or if on-site supports are included, and if those have changed. R+G Administration is listed as a “service provider”.
Sinn Féin Councillor Chris Andrews put down detailed questions about beds, staffing, funding, and other support services, back at a housing committee meeting in March.
“I got completely inadequate answers,” says Andrews. “I would expect that they would have a knowledge of what bang they’re getting for their buck.”
For People Before Profit Councillor Tina MacVeigh, the thing that jumps out from reading the DRHE’s 2018 financial report is the sheer number of different hostels that it covers.
“You don’t know whether the money is for staffing, whether it is to pay rent,” says MacVeigh.
“You know, it’s public money that is being spent. It’s state money being used to fund services but we don’t know exactly what it’s being used to fund and whether we’re getting any value for money,” she says.