The following is the full text of a special submission made by Alice Leahy, Director & Co-Founder of TRUST to the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Vincent Jackson, on Tuesday, July 25, 2006.
There has been a substantial increase in the numbers who are homeless on the streets of Dublin over the last several months. This significant growth is mainly accounted for by people coming from the EU Accession States seeking to make a better life for themselves in Ireland and who may get into difficulties before being able to find a job. TRUST has become aware of Dublin’s new homeless through the very substantial increase in the numbers seeking to use our services. One of the most noteworthy aspects of this trend is that many of these people do not feature in our official statistics as they are not registered with any organisation. Hence, in making this proposal we are unable to quote reliable statistics except to assert that the often cited official figures are clearly out of date and do not reflect the position on the ground. However, we can assert with considerable confidence, given our personal experience, that the need for public shower facilities is urgent as it may actually help in preventing people from becoming homeless by making it easier for them to overcome their often temporary difficulties. This also applies to the many who find themselves in overcrowded accommodation with little or no facilities, a seriously growing problem as well with the very high cost of accommodation in Dublin – and one that effects both existing and newly arrived citizens in Ireland’s rapidly growing capital city.
Public Shower Facilities for All
To avoid stigmatising people who are homeless or poor we believe public shower facilities should be made available to all. We also believe that with our rapidly changing and much higher pressure lifestyles as well as more long distance commuting such facilities will generate real demand amongst the wider community if they are presented in an attractive way, well run and made very secure for all users.
Type of Service
Access to the showers would be made available for 30 (???) minutes at a fixed fee. Soap and towels will also be provided. Those who cannot afford the service can be provided with vouchers at various locations and through designated people such as community welfare officers, etc.
Potential Users – Scale of Demand
Our motivation in making this proposal is to help in not only meeting the needs for very basic services for society’s most marginalised but also to help prevent those who find themselves in temporary difficulties becoming homeless of whom some newly arrived immigrants are the most vulnerable. However, the extent of the potential demand is quite interesting given the poor quality of services in some hostels and emergency B&B accommodation. The following represents a representative sample only:
Newly arrived immigrants who find themselves homeless when, for example, their money runs out.
People living in overcrowded accommodation with poor washing facilities.
Residents of hostels and emergency B&B accommodation with poor washing facilities.
Elderly people afraid to use baths at home with no one around in case they get into difficulties. (Showers are safer but often they cannot afford to install them even with available grants or find the paper work too much etc.)
Long distance commuters who find themselves away from home for excessively long period and are in no position to rush home to have a shower.
Tourists visiting the city after they check out of their hotels/B&Bs etc early in the day when they perhaps may not be leaving the city until late at night.
Visitors to Dublin not staying over night.
While it is difficult to predict anticipated demand it is important to stress that there is no competition at the moment and with effective marketing and the provision of a quality service we are confident this venture could become a signature facility for the city of Dublin.
Service Provider of Public Showers
We recommend that Dublin City Council should undertake to provide this service in Dublin. This facility represents an extremely cost effective option compared to the immediate provision of proper shower facilities in all of the city’s hostels, emergency B&Bs etc that currently do not have such facilities. (This is not to imply that all such services provide substandard facilities.)
Furthermore, given that a public shower facility could make a real contribution in helping to prevent those in temporary difficulties falling into more long term homelessness, the potential savings to the taxpayer could also be very significant under that heading.
We acknowledge that the lack of reliable statistics make a proper feasible study under the latter heading difficult, but given the widespread potential demand on the part of other identified users this facility has the potential to make a real and immediate difference in the lives of many people.
Conclusion – An Urgent Priority
On a daily basis we can see the urgent human need for public shower facilities in Dublin. The fact that many could be helped to avoid the risk of falling into long-term homelessness we believe should be sufficient justification for this service. However given the scale of the potential demand we are confident it offers the potential to become a signature facility for the city of Dublin and for that reason we should seek to develop the most attractive service possible – an approach that will also help to ensure it becomes self sustaining in the long-term.
Director & Co-Founder