Homeless charities seek public’s help for ‘challenging’ Christmas

Focus Ireland launches annual campaign to support poor and 1,200 homeless families

Focus Ireland founder Sr Stanislaus Kennedy with fundraising co-director Sinéad Compton and her two children Aaron and Meabh at the launch of the Christmas appeal. Photograph: Robbie Reynolds

Focus Ireland founder Sr Stanislaus Kennedy with fundraising co-director Sinéad Compton and her two children Aaron and Meabh at the launch of the Christmas appeal. Photograph: Robbie Reynolds

 

Charities supporting homeless people and those living in poverty are urging the public to support them ahead of a “challenging time” for their services at Christmas.

Focus Ireland opened its annual Christmas campaign on Sunday, noting that 2,500 children and nearly 1,200 families are now homeless.

The campaign features TV, radio and outdoor advertisements, which will run over the coming weeks. The outdoor ad features a mother and her child alongside the line: “Homelessness. We can’t live like this anymore.”

Founder Sr Stanislaus Kennedy said: “Christmas should be one of the happiest times of year for children and their families. However, it breaks my heart to think that up to 2,500 children will be homeless on Christmas day this year.”

“I know from meeting families who are homeless that we support it’s the children who feel it the worst. Many times a family who are homeless are often squeezed into one hotel room – three or four people in one room and nowhere to cook or for children to play. There are also many single people and couples homeless and they all need a place to call home.”

The charity, in partnership with the Dublin Region Homeless Executive and local authorities, helped 230 families and just under 450 children in Dublin to secure a home in the first 10 months of this year.

It said this Christmas would be “a very challenging time” as demand for its services continued to rise following its busiest year ever last year. It said 89 cent out of every euro donated went to support more than 12,500 people who were homeless or at risk in 2015.

Focus Ireland said it aimed to provide 600 more homes by 2019 to help tackle the growing crisis.

‘Remarkably high’

Separately, the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) will launch its Christmas campaign on Wednesday.

A spokesman for SVP said the number of calls it was receiving from families in difficulty still remained “remarkably high”. He expected the number of calls in Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow alone for 2016 to reach about 65,000.

“While our immediate concern is helping people get through the Christmas period, the longer-term focus is to help people break the cycle of poverty,” he said.

People were struggling on social welfare and low pay and any additional cost, such as Christmas expenses, could have a serious impact, he added.

There was also a concern this year among all charities that the usual generosity shown by the general public might not be as forthcoming, he said.

“Luckily, the Society does not seem to have been hit in 2015 as badly as some charities.”

But if the resources diminished in any way, this meant the society’s ability to help people would also be diminished.