Mice, cockroaches, bloodstains cited in complaints over emergency accommodation

Tuesday 19 January 2016 08.48
Many of the complaints show the impact homelessness is having on families
Many of the complaints show the impact homelessness is having on families

The Dublin Regional Homeless Executive received more than 100 complaints last year from people they placed in hotels, Bed & Breakfasts and other emergency accommodation.

The complaints, which were released to RTÉ News under Freedom of Information, show that health and safety, anti-social behaviour and child welfare were among the issues raised by some of the almost 800 families living in temporary accommodation last year.

Conditions make-up the bulk of the complaints with mice, cockroaches, bed bugs, bloodstained mattresses, and mould reported in the rooms.

The accommodation was described as cramped, damp, dirty and unsafe in the submissions.

Smoking and drug use in accommodation and anti-social and intimidating behaviour by other residents also feature among the complaints.

"There is a very serious problem with rats in the apartment. They are jumping on the beds, in the kitchen, all over the place … This living situation is causing huge distress and become unbearable," one complaint read. 

Another read: "the mattress was badly ripped with blood stains (and) staff refused to replace it. Floors are destroyed with cigarette burns ... The dampness was so bad my children were sick and our clothes kept getting destroyed with mould."

This complaint continued: "The fire doors are left open ... tenants openly enter the premises with alcohol and under the influence of class A drugs ... I don't think the building is safe or sanitary for families."

Complaints have also been made about the treatment of homeless people by accommodation staff. 

There were several complaints from people who had been asked to leave or removed from accommodation without being given any reason.

They believe they were evicted because they complained about conditions.

Other complaints included a house manager looking to borrow money from clients, clients being requested to do housework or work as cleaning staff.

Difficulty accessing the place they were staying due to absent or unreliable porters and not being given supplies of items such as toilet rolls, towels and bedding for days, if not weeks were also noted. 

In another case an accommodation provider displayed the names of all the residents alongside their PPS numbers.

When one of them complained they were told it was a mistake but if they did not like it "you know where to go".

Concern over anti-social behaviour 

The issue of pubs being attached to accommodation was also raised.

A Public Health Nurse who said she has seen her fair share of poor accommodation said many families report being unable to sleep and feeling unsafe in their room.

"There is frequent episodes of unsociable behaviour by the customers at night as well as first thing in the morning," the nurse wrote. 

"Many families report being unable to sleep, feel unsafe in their room and can't raise the issue with management ... it worries me in relation to the security, health and safety of these families placed there," she added. 

Parents also complain about having to share one bed or mattress with several children because of a lack of space for other beds or cots.

Many of the complaints also show the impact homelessness is having on families, in particular children.

"All we hear most nights is people screaming at each other, none of us are getting any sleep and it's starting to effect my daughters school work as well as our family," another complaint read. 

Minister describes situation as unsustainable

The Minister of State with responsibility for housing has said it is unacceptable and unsustainable to have homeless people living in hotels.

Speaking on RTÉ's Claire Byrne Live, Paudie Coffey said the situation was an emergency.

Mr Coffey said 2,000 people have exited homelessness over the past year, the Government has provided 13,000 additional housing units and they have committed €4bn to tackle the issue in the next five years.

He said that in 6,000 individual cases rent supplement was increased because of personal circumstances.

He added the first phase of modular homes will be provided next month.

Speaking on the same programme, Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Ruth Coppinger admitted the Government had inherited a bad situation, but said they made it worse.

She said the current coalition spent less on social housing than anyone else in the past 25 years.

Ms Coppinger said the fact that just 28 social houses were built in the first quarter of this year showed the Government were ideologically opposed to such schemes.

Revelations described as shocking

The CEO of the Simon Community has said that the revelations contained in the information released to RTÉ are sickening.

Sam McGuinness told RTÉ's Six One News that because of the scarcity of accommodation, the challenge will be in getting people into better quality apartments and homes.

He said people are taking accommodation wherever they can get it because it is either that, or sleep rough on the streets. 

Mr McGuinness said that he has no doubt that local authorities are not knowingly placing people in sub-standard accommodation.

He reiterated that there is a serious housing issue in Dublin and said none of the Government's initiatives have made a difference. 

He said that he has no doubt that the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive will have taken action as a result of the complaints.