“…the best way to solve homelessness in Dublin would be to provide no beds.” Owen Keegan, Dublin City Council’s Chief Executive
“...the best way to solve homelessness in Dublin would be to provide no beds.” Owen Keegan, Dublin City Council’s Chief Executive
You might end up asking what an ex-Director of Traffic and now Chief Executive of a vast bureaucracy (Dublin City Council) with degrees in public administration, economics and civil engineering might know about sleeping under the awnings of public buildings or being huddled in shop doorways for shelter on bitter-cold and wet winter nights?
And maybe someone might mention this to Mr. Keegan as a polite way of suggesting he consider “shutting the f*** up”... in relation to his extraordinary comments - in the midst of a housing and homeless crisis here - to the extent that homeless people are “cute hoors”, well able to play the game and not the victims of a society that puts profit before people?
For those who pay for Sunday newspapers the headline that greeted them here last week amounted to as much:
“City Council chief: good homeless services in Dublin create demand for them”
(Ireland's Sunday Business Post)
...in a country where the official figure for the homeless currently stands at almost 10,000, a figure that includes 1,300 families and almost 3,000 children and with an estimated 156 people sleeping rough in Dublin each night (as anyone out late knows only too well) and many many others using whatever scant resources (Night Café, friends, vacant couch, etc.) they can, to escape the elements in one of the now richest countries in the world.
Instead, for Owen Keegan, in his comments to the Sunday Business Post, it would appear the crisis is rather that of the “massive investment in homeless services” that has resulted in “a reluctance in some people to move on”.
“The reality is that if we make better services available, people are happy to access them.”
Adding: “Every year we’ve added 200-300 bed spaces, they’re much higher-quality spaces, but one of the paradoxical problems with that is people are kind of reluctant to move on, they’re almost permanent.”
In his interview with the Sunday Business Post, Mr. Keegan pointed out that the local authority’s success in providing “quality” homeless accommodation is creating the danger of excessive demand with some people not wanting to leave...
“The best way to solve homelessness in Dublin would be to provide no beds... When you go out of your way to increase accommodation and improve the standards of that accommodation, it’s a much more attractive place to be, that’s just the reality.”
...So instead of our right-of-centre government investing in a housing policy that encourages people to compete with each other to pay enormous rents (with less-than-enormous wages, peculiarly enough) it appears we would be better off with a shop-doorway crisis where the battle would be not for a place to live but a shop door-front to sleep in?
“This is not questioning people’s motives, but Dublin is a major draw for people who are homeless because there is a very wide range of service provision.”
In a follow up interview on early morning radio he defended his comments telling RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show that the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) operates a “very open system” and that one of the prices to be paid for such “a compassionate response” is that such services “are a magnet” for people.
“I was trying to make a point if we really wanted to cut numbers, then cut the service. I’m very unhappy with the numbers.”
Quoting the U.S. of Donald Trump, Owen Keegan also pointed out that there are municipal districts in the US where they “deal” with the problem of homelessness by decreeing it against the law and then move people outside the town’s boundaries.
As if anybody in their right mind would use the United States as a model for anything (other than kidnapping migrants’ children)? The U.S.? Have a look here at what the LA Times has to say about the matter: “One of the abiding myths about Los Angeles is that homeless people come here from the East Coast or Midwest because at least they won’t freeze to death.”
So much for an answer, Mr. Keegan... Since when has throwing the baby out with the bathwater been good childcare policy? Or gas chambers a cure for Zionism? Etc. etc. etc.
Instead, to this office worker, the enormous homeless figures both in Dublin and countrywide (as well as the suffering they represent for those willing to listen) are not a negative as such, saying, from the safety of his well-insulated office: “People now have choices they didn’t have before.”
“The reality is that if we make better services available, people are happy to access them.”
For this public “servant” then, because services are better (than when?.. the 19th century?), people who previously would have stayed with their family or parents in cramped conditions were instead presenting as homeless in a bid to access permanent social housing.
“Cute Hoors” is the word we used to use here, for these crafty scammers... and I pass them in shop doorways and using any available shelter each night I cross the city to earn my own rent money.
“There are cases where people turn down accommodation (under the HAP scheme). People choose to wait in temporary housing pending an offer of permanent social housing.”
He also pointed out that many people in homeless services have a range of “complex needs” and should be receiving help elsewhere. These were the people, who he had said, “won’t move on”. “They are not capable of independent living.”
“Homeless services are not the place for people with complex needs, but really homeless services are the only people offering services. It is not the best option for them.”
Locked wards, maybe?
“The slur on homeless families is actually unforgiveable”
The city manager’s right-wing and insensitive comments produced a significant reaction, if only one that died down before the manager was asked to resign his position (apparently Workers’ Party councillor Éilis Ryan did call for Mr. Keegan’s resignation.. “Shouldn’t an individual to whom the state has paid over a million euro be held accountable for his performance?” she said wisely.)
Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin who said that the root cause of homelessness is an “underinvestment in public housing”, blaming the current government’s targets in its Rebuilding Ireland strategy, described Keegan’s remarks as “bizarre and hurtful” and called on him to apologise:
"The reason why these families are homeless is because of the failure of the State to ensure an adequate supply of affordable housing, not because of the behaviour of the families themselves.
"So, whether he intended to or not, I think he has insulted many of these families and he should withdraw the comments and apologise.
“Families are not in emergency accommodation because it is ‘attractive’... They are homeless because of a lack of social and affordable homes.”
“The suggestion that good quality emergency accommodation is ‘attractive’ and encouraging people into homelessness or making them reluctant to move on to permanent housing is deeply insulting to the hundreds of parents whose families have been made homeless.”
Likewise Director of Advocacy, Communications and Research with Focus Ireland,
Mike Allen tweeted:
“Good homeless services create demand”! Or perhaps, just perhaps, demand for homeless services is created the failure of @housingdcc to build homes. But it seems to be easier to blame homeless families than take responsibility.”
Stating the obvious (to some) Mr. Allen added: "There is nobody who is becoming homeless who is putting themselves into that form of misery simply to avail of the wonderful facilities that are being offered, and it's obviously very insulting for people to hear that.”
Anthony Flynn, CEO of Inner City Helping Homeless, described Owen Keegan’s comments as “completely disingenuous”:
“To suggest that anyone wants to remain within homeless services is ludicrous...[The] real reason why people are forced to remain in homeless services is because of the systemic failures of the [Dublin Regional Homeless Executive] and a lack of build from [Dublin City Council].”
A point also highlighted by Éilis Ryan in her call for Owen Keegan’s resignation:
“Mr. Keegan talks about homelessness as if it is a problem which is outside of his control. But in reality, nobody in Dublin has more power and influence over housing and planning than Owen Keegan.
“He is deeply opposed to the proper provision of large-scale public housing, and has used his position throughout the past five years to prevent this from happening. This is an agenda which has totally undermined our ability to tackle the housing crisis, and he must be held to account.”
Finally Sinn Féin’s Daithí Doolan (current chairperson of the Council’s housing committee):
“Homelessness is caused by landlords evicting families and a lack of social and affordable housing. He should immediately withdraw these misleading comments.”
Fergus Finlay, until recently Chief Executive of the children’s charity Barnardos, posted on his Facebook page:
“But here’s the thing. Owen Keegan runs Dublin City Council. Dublin City Council is Ireland’s biggest landlord, by far, and the organisation that has most to contribute to solving the housing crisis... He gave an interview to the Sunday Business Post at the weekend in which he offered a couple of tacky jokes about homelessness — “the best way to solve homelessness in Dublin would be to provide no beds”...And he also, apparently, believes that people who are homeless fall so in love with the emergency and temporary arrangements that Dublin City Council makes that they are reluctant to move on to whatever is offered to them next.
I don’t mind the jokes. We’re all guilty of gallows humour sometimes. But the slur on homeless families is actually unforgiveable. In his job, he must have met mothers trying to raise children in emergency accommodation. Unless he’s been utterly sheltered (which I suppose is possible) he must have seen their faces, felt their despair, been affected by the damage that is being done to children. Only someone utterly insensitive could seriously believe that emergency provision is so good that it’s a better choice....”
Fergus Finlay, in the interest of fairness probably, goes on to praise the work of the in other regards, and maybe this is true, or true in places, but as someone who comes from a long line of those both forced and choosing to live in social housing (it actually can be a choice, just like renting in the private sector or buying on the “free market”) the long (and unwritten) history of the negative influences of the “Local Authority” over working class peoples’ lives goes way back... and is, of course, one of the undocumented and un-listened to chapters in the extended history of the marginalisation and exclusion of those without money or power, whether in this recently “free” state or as a colony to the British Crown and its ruling classes.
So for anyone who has grown up in need of “The Authority’s” services, with its unwritten history of incompetence, neglect, bullying, and bureaucracy... this right wing diatribe, however eloquently rolled back following a (small) public backlash, merely brings to the surface the often hidden and historical contempt for those of us who are “in need” or choose to use public services...
...in an era where profit and oftentimes-legal ‘robbery’ are valued as the norm and those who see the world in different, in more “socialist” terms are considered “parasites”, “wasters”, and less than responsible citizens, to the extent that, for sure, these “cute hoors” are certainty not of the species of "people who get up early in the morning", as our current Taoiseach pointed out some time back.
Of course, the basis of democracy is free speech, right, no matter how ignorant, insensitive, or right-wing it is?
Pity it’s not just words, then, when it comes to the distribution of power, resources and influence in our society?
Owen Keegan - Chief Executive
Owen P Keegan was appointed Dublin City Chief Executive in September 2013 having served as County Manager of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council (DLR) from February 2006. Before joining DLR he worked for Dublin City Council, where he was Assistant City Manager and then Director of Traffic.
Prior to October 1993 he worked as an economist for DKM Economic Consultants/Davy Stockbrokers. He has also worked in the Department of Finance, the ESRI and for two periods in the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.
Mr Keegan is from Dublin. He holds degrees in public administration, economics and civil engineering.
Keegan appointed Dublin City manager (2013) (Irish Times)
“Cute Hoors” and Early Risers
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“It's their taxes that fund public services and keep our welfare system afloat and they deserve a break. And they know which party is on their side...” Irish Independent
“The Fine Gael leader also told Vincent Browne that he gets up at 6.45am in the morning, when Browne put it to him that he “didn’t have a reputation” for getting up early in the morning when he started in the Dáil....He said he exercises regularly in the morning for his mental health, and to get fit.” The Journal.ie
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