Twelve hundred Ukrainian refugees have moved into homes pledged to the Irish Red Cross since the Russians invaded their country in February.
Over 9,000 offers of accommodation from Irish citizens to house Ukrainian refugees have been forwarded to the government accommodation agency by the Irish Red Cross.
But only a fraction of the properties are occupied by Ukrainian families, with the owners of many shared properties still controlled by the garda.
Of the 9,000 housing offers, 6,000 are in shared accommodation and 3,000 in vacant housing.
The secretary general of the Irish Red Cross said it “took courage” two and a half months to process the 9,000 pledges, including contacting landlords and inspecting the premises.
Liam O’Dwyer said properties continue to come in from families in Ireland, with another 380 properties pledged over the past two weeks, and offers are continuing at the rate of two to three a day.
Mr O’Dwyer said the Irish Red Cross works with more vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied teenagers who turn 18 and enter adult refugee services, and moving families from centers overcrowded emergencies.
“We have seen some emergency accommodation overflowing and we have been asked to move a number of families into accommodation,” he said.
In the aftermath of the invasion, over 24,000 promises of accommodation were made, but most failed because the offer was withdrawn or the owner could not be contacted.
Since then, 35,000 people, mostly women and children, have fled Ukraine for Ireland, with a recent increase of 2,500 in the past two weeks.
Most are in emergency accommodation, but the pace of moving families to longer-term accommodation, such as homes pledged to the Irish Red Cross, is proving to be a longer process.
The properties are adapted to the needs of the refugees, taking into account the proximity of schools, work or a requirement of proximity to hospitals.
Mr O’Dwyer said the emergency accommodation situation for Ukrainian refugees will become “complex”.
“I think it’s going to be complex. I think the initial response has been fantastic in terms of urgency
accommodation and hotels, etc. Obviously, some hotels have tourist activities. I know that the Department moves people into student residences that have just become vacant. Student accommodation will be required for students from mid-August,” he said.
“I think the savior at this point may well be the accommodation pledges, as it gives more time to get people out of emergency accommodation.”
He said the government was considering mobile homes, religious institutions and prefabricated buildings such as log cabins as a longer-term solution.
“None of this is ideal, but it is an emergency and…mobile homes and institutional buildings are certainly much better than the concept of tent villages,” he said.
Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman, whose department coordinates the refugee response, told the Dáil that 1,200 families are in pledged accommodation and 2,500 vacant accommodation is currently being assessed. The Irish Red Cross has launched a coordination and mobilization programme, to link support for Ukrainian refugees across the country, with a psychotherapy and support service due to launch in a few weeks.
In addition to accommodation pledges, the Irish Red Cross has received over 4,000 pledges of qualified volunteers in each county providing services including language training, interpretation and psychosocial support. Their support offerings, as well as state and community services, will be operated by the Red Cross through the central coordination team, led by disaster management expert David Kenealy.
The coordination program was launched after a study carried out by Ernst & Young for the Irish Red Cross highlighted a gap in the national coordination of support services.