Simon warns Cork homeless crisis continues to worsen

More people sleeping rough and availing of soup run support, says charity

Cork Simon  saw a 63 per cent increase in the number of people sleeping rough in Cork in 2014 compared to 2013. File Photograph:  Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Cork Simon saw a 63 per cent increase in the number of people sleeping rough in Cork in 2014 compared to 2013. File Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

The homelessness crisis in Cork is worsening, with more people and more ending up on the streets and in emergency shelters, according to Cork Simon.

In its annual report for 2014, the housing charity reported an 11 per cent increase in the number of people it is supporting.

According to Cork Simon’s Director Dermot Kavanagh, the community provided support for 1,314 people in 2014, an 11 per cent increase on those it assisted in 2013 and a 28 per cent increase on those it assisted in 2012, as more and more people are forced into homelessness in the city.

Cork Simon also saw a 63 per cent increase in the number of people sleeping rough in Cork in 2014 compared to 2013 while it saw a 24 per cent increase in the number of people it was supporting through its soup run over the same period, he said.

Mr Kavanagh said the number of people sleeping rough was averaging five people a night in 2012 and 2013 but last year it increased to 11 people and in October 2014, Cork Simon found that there were 19 people on average sleeping rough in the city each night.

“More people are sleeping rough, more people are depending on our soup run to make ends meet and more people staying every night at our emergency shelter and are stuck there for far too long because they have no other option. People deserve better.”

Cork Simon put extra beds into its emergency shelter and it, along with other housing charities, successfully pressurised the Government to bring more beds on stream last Christmas.

“Increasing the number of emergency beds is a welcome approach right now - they’re desperately needed, but it’s not the solution. People need permanent homes that are safe, secure and where they can get all the supports they need if they are to leave homelessness behind them for good.”

Mr Kavanagh said the housing crisis and rising rents were contributing to the problem and while the measures on rent control introduced by Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly will help some people, they are coming too late for others forced out of their homes and on to the streets.

He also welcomed the Government’s commitment to increase the supply of social housing by building more and bringing boarded-up properties back into use but such moves cannot happen quickly enough to address the crisis, he said.

“The housing crisis is driving the growing number of people being pushed into homelessness - they need housing, not emergency accommodation - they must be able to afford to put a roof over their head rather than facing uncertainty about whether they can afford next month’s rent.

“The measures announced recently to address that uncertainty will help some people, but rents have already spiralled, resulting in far too many people who are virtually excluded from the private rented market. That will only be addressed if rent supplement levels are increased.”

Mr Kavanagh said the charity, which spent €7.5 million on services in 2014, can tackle homelessness if it is given the support necessary and last year it housed more people than ever before and he instanced its success in reducing the number of long term homelessness in Cork.

“One figure that is very telling is that the number of people who are long term homeless in our services has been going steadily for the last four years - from 76 in 2011 to 61 last year and the reason for that is we have prioritised those who are longest in homeless services,” he said.

“We are finding that with the approach we have take people are able to retain their housing, a number of them are able to get access to education and employment and it’s providing a permanent and sustainable solution to homelessness for those people.

“And if we get more and more housing that’s going to be the answer and if we can provide more and more support for people in housing, that’s going to be much more effective than simply putting in more shelter beds which is a kind of temporary solution that ends up being endless.”