December 20, 2003.
Concern over high operational costs has led to the abandonment of the controversial plan to locate a hostel for homeless people at Lea Road, Portarlington.
County manager Martin Riordan announced his decision at the council’s December meeting last Monday.
Mr Riordan said that the location at Lea Road was suitable, but that the running costs of €800,000 per annum for the facility was not a value for money proposal.
“This in no way reflects on the voluntary housing agency Respond. It was always the intention of the council to provide an 11-bed facility at this location,” he said.
Plans to establish a homeless hostel in the former 11-bed nursing home at Lea Road emerged at a council Emo electoral area meeting early last June. The plan met with considerable opposition locally, which formed around a group called Concerned Residents of Portarlington, Monasterevin and surrounding areas (CROPMAS).
In his report the manager noted that the costs for the first year were estimated to be in excess of €800,000, for both operational and care support, which would be met by both the Midland Health Board and the council on a 50/50 basis.
“These costs are extremely high and are a central factor in considering the merits of the proposal,” he said.
He noted that the costs of running the Monastery Hostel, Carlow, provided by St Vincent de Paul and funded through Carlow County Council and FAS, was approximately €242,000 per annum for a 17-bed unit.
The Good Shepherd Hostel in Kilkenny, a 45-bed unit, funded by Kilkenny County Council, the South Eastern Health Board and voluntary contributions, was €575,000 per annum.
“Laois County Council will continue to source other appropriate properties in order to fulfil their statutory obligations in relation to the homeless. I will be working towards bringing a more cost effective proposal before you, for your consideration, in the short term,” he stated.
“With this announcement Christmas has come early for the people of Lea Road,” stated Cllr James Deegan. “I want to compliment the manager for taking this decision and pay tribute to the people of the Lea Road who recognised the need of the homeless in this debate, and engaged in a dignified protest within the law.
“The facility was in the wrong location with no back-up services. Our task now is to source a suitable residence near back-up facilities. I would ask that a select committee be put in place, in the interest of transparency, to vet any future investment by the council for housing for the homeless,” he said.
The manager’s decision was roundly welcomed by councillors from all parties.