In Rathgar, Residents Want More Input into Council Plan to House Homeless Families

Residents living around the former Rostrevor nursing home in Rathgar say they wish Dublin City Council had told them about its new plans for the site.

The council has plans to open a so-called “hub” for homeless families to stay in on the site at 66 Orwell Road.

Residents said they learned of the plans only after inquiring about recent works to the building, a protected structure.

Green Party Councillor Patrick Costello says, from what he’s gathered, the council doesn’t want to do public consultation until the lease is signed.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive declined to respond to queries about the hub two weeks ago, saying the lease hadn’t been signed. They didn’t respond to queries last week about the hub and whether they would consult local residents.

A spokesperson from Dublin City Council also declined to comment. “We will be consulting with Local Councillors and local residents in the first instance and arrangements are being put in place to do this,” they said.

Providing Accommodation

The hub would accommodate 17 families, says Costello.

Labour Councillor Mary Freehill says she hasn’t “received complaints locally” about plans to give these homeless families somewhere to stay.

It is the media, she says, that are being “negative” about the proposed Rathgar hub. “I’m just amazed at the negativity of the press and the media,” Freehill says.

“I’m happy to have a well-run hub in my area to house people who are homeless. Well-run is the important part,” she says.

Tom Lyons, who lives on Orwell Road, says he can accept the family hub as long as it is “well-managed”.

But last month someone sent a letter to the council and local councillors, raising concerns about plans for the hub at the intersection of Orwell Road and Zion Road.

The letter says “a number of owner-occupiers on Zion Road” were concerned at the proposed change of use of a protected property “without planning consent”.

“The few neighbours I have spoken to are very concerned that such a change of use can be ‘foisted’ on our local community without any regard for our democratic rights, health and safety issues and without any local consultation from any politicians, councillors or DCC,” the letter says.

The person who wrote the letter could not be reached. Several Zion Road residents said they had little or no knowledge of the proposed hub plans.

Change of Use

Tom Lyons lives a little ways down from the former nursing home, on Orwell Road, but can still see it from his driveway.

He says he was concerned about what he says were recent changes to the protected structure.

“Slates have been replaced to the roof which do not match in colour tone or age of the existing. Internal plasterwork has been compromised,” he said in an email to the council.

The council’s planning department sent him back a lengthy reply on 21 July, stating that works had taken place during the time the nursing home was in use, but that “there was no evidence of any of the recent works” that would have altered it.

The letter he received said the property would be leased by Dublin City Council “to provide temporary residential accommodation to homeless families with management, oversight and care (meals, support, advice) provided for the families”.

It also said the former nursing home can be used to provide residential accommodation and care to people in need of care, without planning permission.

Lyons still thinks the council should have had to get planning permission though. And that residents should have been consulted.

“I do think that it would be reasonable that they would go to people and say, ‘We’re doing this and we just want to let you know this is how we’re doing it’,” he said.

Consultations

Residents say the council should have consulted them beforehand, but often it is the service provider who does community outreach – after a hub’s location has been decided.

Costello, the councillor, says the service provider chosen to manage the hub should do some community outreach as soon as possible. That’s what other organisations have done, on other places, he says, naming the Salvation Army and Respond.

“They invited people, and they showed the sorts of people they would have, the facilities they had, the procedures, the policies and how they would link with people on an ongoing basis,” Costello says.

“Respond, again, did huge work in meeting residents and finding policies and procedures to address those,” he says.

Respond operates family hubs in Tallaght, Clontarf and Drumcondra. In 2017, it had an official opening for their hub in Tallaght, inviting public representatives, local stakeholders and the media to meet with families.

Niamh Randall, Respond’s head of advocacy and communications, says the organisation has been “very lucky” with the communities they’ve engaged with.

“They accept what we’re doing it,” she says. “Again it’s important how we’re doing it and why we’re doing it.”

But sometimes things do need to move fast, Randall said. “Very often it’s about responding very very quickly to a need. It’s the nature of a housing emergency,” she says. “So you have to take that into the equation.”

The Salvation Army opened a family hub on Clonard Road in Crumlin in 2017.

Robert Byrne, service manager at the hub on Clonard Road, said over email the service had worked with the council’s community liaison team to inform local people about their service.

“This consultation was led by the council through a series of local meetings and media articles,” Byrne said.

“Since then we have continued to build on our relationship with the community who fully understand that we are open and transparent, and will work them on any concerns they have regarding our clients or our service delivery,” he said.

Temporary Measure

The question shouldn’t be how best to put a hub in a particular neighbourhood, and deal with local residents, says Peter Dooley.

The question should be how to do away with hubs for homeless families altogether, says Dooley, co-founder of the Dublin Renters’ Union.

“We’re against hubs, full stop. We don’t think anybody should be put in any homeless accommodation. It’s becoming a permanent solution to the housing crisis,” he says.

“I’ve seen a few around the city,” Dooley says. “They’re disgraceful. People have to be in by certain times, people have to sign in and out. It’s institutionalised living.”

Dooley says he thinks hubs have a negative effect on children: “They can’t have friends over. They can’t regular childhoods.”

Social Democrats Councillor Tara Deacy says hubs should only be a “temporary measure”.

Author:

Aura McMenamin: is a city reporter covering the south side of the city, and jobs. You can reach her at aura@dublininquirer.com.

Reader responses

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Kevin Hogan
at 15 August at 04:03

NIMBYism at its worst. The property is already established for residential services. Those handful of 'concerned' neighbors need to stop wasting everyone's time. They don't get to choose who is allowed to live next door.

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