Over 550 people helped into housing in 2020 by charity Depaul

Organisation supported more than 3,500 people across Ireland, including families and children

The report also highlighted struggles faced by lone parents who sought help as they ‘often don’t have a wide support system’. File photograph: Getty

The report also highlighted struggles faced by lone parents who sought help as they ‘often don’t have a wide support system’. File photograph: Getty

 

More than 550 people were helped move from homeless services into their own accommodation last year by charity Depaul.

The number moved into housing across the island of Ireland in 2020 was up 40 per cent on 2019, according to the organisation’s annual report published on Tuesday.

Depaul supported more than 3,500 people across Ireland, including 410 families and 772 children facing homelessness.

Eight babies were born in Depaul housing services during the year.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the charity reconfigured its services to add two isolation units for people displaying symptoms of coronavirus. It also established three staffed shielding units in several Dublin city centre hotels, which provided an additional 240 beds for the most medically vulnerable. Depaul was responsible for two-thirds of the “shielding” beds established in Dublin during the pandemic.

Depaul chief executive David Carroll said its quick response to the virus crisis protected the most vulnerable of service users. The charity worked cross-sectorally with partner agencies and governments North and South in its response, he said.

“In every aspect, I am both delighted and proud to acknowledge the resilience of our staff and service users through these exceptional times,” he said.

What about the lockdowns?

Included in the report was testimony from Marie Dorris, manager of Depaul’s Cloverhill service. She highlighted the struggles faced by lone parents who sought help as they “often don’t have a wide support system”. The assistance they had pre-pandemic was cut off during lockdowns, said Ms Dorris.

She gave the example of one single-parent family who had been homeless since before Christmas 2019. When the mother and child had to isolate due to catching the virus, Depaul staff delivered food and other basics to the mother and child and also topped up energy cards.

“They were isolating and had no one to help them, to bring them food or anything. In Depaul we contacted them every day, to make sure they were okay,” said Ms Dorris.

Depaul service user Alan Behan, who has been homeless for more than a decade, said the pandemic “changed a lot” for him. In homeless hostels when the pandemic hit, the 54-year-old said the lack of activity during the pandemic focused his mind on recovery.

“The pandemic worked for me… Everywhere was dead. There wasn’t a sinner out there,” he said.

With the help of Depaul workers and volunteers, Mr Behan entered a detox unit and has since spent six months at a recovery centre, which feels “like a palace” compared to living on the streets and in emergency hostels.

“I’m clean, I’m shaven, I have clean clothes. People are good to me. This all makes a big difference,” he said.

Hearing of many others getting homes through the Peter McVerry Trust or local councils, Mr Behan said he hopes to be in his own accommodation in the next couple of months.

“I would love a home to call my own… I’m 14 years on the council list, and part of my recovery will be getting housing… I have been told things are looking up,” he said.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien commended the service’s response to the pandemic.

“This work saved lives and demonstrated the solidarity that was necessary for our society to emerge stronger and safer from these past two years,” he said.