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Liberty residents oppose homeless hostel on Francis Street

 

A High Court challenge has been brought against Dublin City Council’s decision to allow the community centre on Carman’s Hall off Francis street to be used as a hostel for homeless people.

 

Residents want the former St Nicholas of Myra centre to act as a community hall – it was used for this purpose before closure in 2013 over fire safety and accessibility concerns.

 

The centre was opened before Christmas as temporary emergency accommodation for rough sleepers, with a capacity of 65 beds.

 

The building, owned by the Dublin Catholic archdiocese and run by the Simon Community and the Salvation Army, may face closure if the residents win.

 

Deputy Lord Mayor Rebecca Moynihan said she sided with residents: “As it is, there is an intensification of those type of services in Dublin 8. Carman’s Hall has always been a community centre and it’s a matter of retaining services.”

 

The resident groups were represented in court by barrister Niall Handy, who says local people are outraged and are actively campaigning to have the hall reopened as a community centre.

 

The community insist they require the centre to help locals and they say homeless and addiction services are available throughout the area.

 

There are 12 homeless and social support services within 500 metres of Carman’s Hall and 660 homeless people being accommodated in Dublin 8, significantly more compared to 78 in Dublin 4 and none in Dublin 6W, the court heard.

 

Cllr Moynihan said it has never been a case of ‘not on my backyard’ but rather relates to the services offered: “We opened the centre and it’s there to serve a purpose.”

 

Despite protesting and campaigning, residents say that they have every sympathy for those that are homeless. The problem stems from the ‘underhand way’ in which the situation was handled.

 

Dublin City Council (DCC) discussed using Carman’s Hall as accommodation in May 2016 but locals became aware of this in late October when work had already started. Counsel said it is also part of their case that, by not going through the public consultation process in regards to a change of use of the building, DCC are in material contravention of the Dublin City development plan.

 

As much as €930,000 has been spent converting the building into a hostel after acquiring it under a five-year lease. The Dublin Catholic Archdiocese have not committed to using the building beyond the 2017-18 winter period, the court also heard.

 

Local resident Liam Murphy said he sympathises with those who are homeless but is in favour of a community centre: “Of course it’s a terrible position to be in but the community would benefit from something like this. I do think it’s necessary.”  

 

Resident Karen Roche had similar opinions regarding the situation: “There’s plenty of facilities in this particular area for those who need help and I think it’s important to look at whether it’s really needed here on this street. Services offered by a community centre could really help.”

 

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