Politics

Almost 3,000 offers of vacant properties to house refugees fail to materialise


Almost 3,000 offers of vacant accommodation for Ukrainian refugees have either been withdrawn or the property owner involved could not be contacted to make arrangements to take up the pledge.

The number is around 12 per cent of the 24,411 pledges made through the Irish Red Cross to date.

Some 589 people have withdrawn the offer, while another 2,367 have proven to be not contactable despite as many as three attempted calls, including in the evenings and at weekends.

The Government is scrambling to find accommodation for potentially tens of thousands of people fleeing the Russian attack on Ukraine.

Ministers were briefed this week that an extra 5,000 extra beds will be needed before Easter.

More than 20,000 people have arrived so far, with many initially making arrangements to stay with family and friends. However, the proportion of refugees needing help with accommodation is rising.

They are being housed in hotels but emergency facilities are being prepared including at Green Glens Arena at Millstreet, Co Cork, and tents for 320 people at Gormanston Camp in Co Meath.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has asked local authorities to identify buildings in their areas that could be converted for use, as well as sites for building temporary and permanent housing.

Convents

Another avenue currently being explored is the use of properties owned by religious organisations. Some 36 Catholic religious congregations have offered 450 rooms in convents, retreat centres, former student accommodation and houses.

The Association of Leaders of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland, which represents over 120 religious congregations, is in talks with the Department of Children and the Irish Refugee Council about its offers.

The pledges to the Irish Red Cross of vacant homes or shared accommodation with Irish hosts is set to play an important part in efforts to respond to the crisis in the near future.

A spokesman for the organisation said more than 11,300 phone calls have been made by the Defence Forces and volunteers to make arrangements for the use of vacant properties.

Calls to Irish households offering shared accommodation are to begin on Friday.

One of the first steps is the Garda vetting process for households that may host children or vulnerable adults.

The spokesman said gardaí have said this process can be completed in seven days or less once they have a person’s application.

Inspectors are surveying properties and have 15 criteria to be assessed as “adequate” or “not adequate”, including structural condition, food preparation, storage and laundry facilities, potential hazards for small children and sanitary facilities.

Multiple toilets are required for privacy reasons in the case of families being hosted.

Accommodation with just one bathroom can be provided for single refugees in instances where there is agreement between the person and the host.

Documents

Formal documents setting out the terms and conditions of the accommodation for both the refugee and the host are in the process of being finalised.

The spokesman said hosts are making a voluntary offer and there is no financial support on offer from the State.

The Department of Children and Integration did not respond to an Irish Times query on where there are plans to subsidise the cost of hosting a refugee for households.

Elsewhere, the Irish Refugee Council has urged the Government to give holiday home owners €300 to €400 per month to allow their properties to be used by refugees.

Chief executive of the council, Nick Henderson, told Newstalk that a voluntary pledge scheme would help to encourage holiday home owners to open up their properties to refugees making their way from Ukraine to Ireland.

“We are recommending a voluntary holiday home pledge scheme. If you own a holiday home and it is vacant, you could pledge it to be used by refugees for say a minimum of six months and in return you would receive a monthly allowance, not at market rental rate. This, we believe, would significantly assist in the accommodation of refugees.”



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