Homeless figures could reach “a multiple” of where they stand with the State possibly on the cusp of “a perfect storm”, the chairperson of the Simon Communities of Ireland Mick Price has said.
Mr Price said there is now a generation who seem unlikely to “ever own their own home”.
He was speaking as the Simon Communities of Ireland launched their annual report for 2021 in Dublin on Thursday, which outlined that the charity worked with 22,280 people, including 2,140 families.
“My own concern as the chair of the organisation is the realisation that we may be on the cusp of a perfect storm,” Mr Price said.
“We are seeing rapidly rising homelessness and tenancies under severe pressure as landlords exit the market. We are experiencing rising costs and funding contracting in the sector both at a State and donor level.
“An energy crisis and a possible consequent recession loom large on the horizon. This situation can rapidly see homeless numbers reach a multiple of where we are today.”
Mr Price said this could “overwhelm” service providers who already have “a real issue of morale in the sector”.
“As frontline service providers, our personnel have demonstrated a Trojan vocational work ethic throughout the pandemic,” he said.
“At the same time, the State has not seen fit to pay them the Covid bonus and now the gap that is emerging in salary levels sees State agencies pay staff up to 10 per cent more for very similar roles in our sector.”
The chairperson said this was “just cannibalising the sector and makes no sense” and was very demoralising for staff.
According to the report, 119,291 nights of emergency accommodation were provided throughout 2021 while 5,760 people were supported by the Simon Communities’ rough sleeping and outreach teams.
A total of 1,550 people availed of drug and/or alcohol treatment services, while 1,584 people used a needle exchange and 616 people accessed health specialist services.
The report also shows that the overall number of people who engaged with the charity decreased by 1,847 compared with 2020.
The organisation said this reduction was largely accounted for through a scaling back of some food bank services provided by midwest Simon during the first year of the pandemic as they diverted resources to the provision of more emergency accommodation.
Wayne Stanley, head of policy and communications at the Simon Communities of Ireland, noted that last month the Government introduced a moratorium on evictions which is in place until April 1st, 2023.
“The Simon Communities of Ireland have called on the Government to utilise this time wisely and put into place measures that will protect against homelessness from eviction and take measures to increase our social and affordable housing stock,” he said.
Mr Stanley added that there needed to be Government action taken that “reflects the learning from 2021″.
“That means targeted action to reduce the number of people entering homelessness and increasing the allocation of resources to support people out of homelessness, particularly those in long-term homelessness,” he said.