Belfast Telegraph

Homeless charity supported record number of people in past year

In its annual report, Focus Ireland said that the number of homeless people it supported jumped by 7% in 2018.

Brian Somers and Pat Dennigan (Cate McCurry/PA)
Brian Somers and Pat Dennigan (Cate McCurry/PA)

By Cate McCurry, PA

A homeless charity helped a record number of more than 15,500 people over the last year in a further sign that the homeless crisis is growing in Ireland.

In its annual report, Focus Ireland said that the number of homeless people it supported jumped by 7% in 2018.

The charity helped more than 1,600 homeless families last year and served a total of 44,276 hot meals.

Dublin Focus Ireland CEO Pat Dennigan said the crisis is the result of the current breakdown in the private rental sector.

Reacting to their figures, Mr Dennigan said: “We weren’t surprised by this. It’s something that we see every day. It’s something that we see around our services up and down the country, that the situation is getting worse.

“The people who are living in emergency accommodation and who are being impacted by the crisis are tending to stay longer in emergency accommodation.

“We are also seeing more families. If you were to go back four or five years ago family homelessness wasn’t really an issue to the same extent as it is now.

“Almost 4,000 children are homeless which is a very, very dangerous experience, because the impact on those children can be very much long-term.

“What we’re trying to do is limit that and make sure that their stay in emergency accommodation is as short as possible.”

Mr Dennigan said that the Government needs to put more emphasis on getting people out of emergency accommodation and into permanent homes.

He said the response from Government to date is to provide more family hubs and more emergency accommodation.

“We feel that we really need to be focusing our attention on ending the situation and provide more homes.

“We provided more homes last year as a nation than we did in any other year recently. But it’s still far from enough.

“We need approximately 35,000 homes a year and we’re well short of that.”

The charity prevented nearly 600 households from losing their homes and provided 176 homes.

Former homeless man Brian Somers turned to drugs when he was sleeping on the streets some 10 years ago.

It leaves you in a very vulnerable place where you could be open up to doing things that you've never done before. Brian Somers

The 47-year-old said the homeless crisis is spiralling out of control and that children have now become the new face of homelessness.

Focus Ireland helped him secure a home and allowed him to build the life he always wanted.

“I slept in the one-night-only where I had to leave the next morning. I didn’t know where I was going or what I was doing, or who I was going to be hanging about with,” he said.

“It leaves you in a very vulnerable place where you could be open up to doing things that you’ve never done before.

“With homelessness eventually you will end up in prison or in hospital or dead.

“But there is a way out of this, there’s a lot more support now than there was when I was homeless.

“There’s loads of people wanting to help you but you have to put your hand up.”

After completing a six-month drug-free programme, Mr Somers was housed by Dublin City Council.

“I was able to flourish again and build my own future I always wanted,” he added.

PA

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