A new housing-first approach is to be introduced in Cork city in the coming months in a bid to reduce long-term homelessness.
It is part of Cork City Council's strategy to reduce the number of people in emergency accommodation in the city.
With housing-first, individuals who have experienced homelessness are helped to transition into permanent housing and provided with additional supports on a case-by-case basis for issues which may be identified once they are housed.
It aims to break the cycle of long-term homelessness by removing people from emergency accommodation and placing them in permanent housing.
It comes amid a continued rise in the numbers accessing emergency accommodation in Cork city.
As of the end of November - the most recent figures published by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government - the number of adults in emergency accommodation in Cork had reached 363, a 22% increase in just 12 months.
Senior officials at Cork Simon have warned that their shelters are exceeding full capacity and that conditions are worsening for those relying on them.
In a bid to ease the pressure on homeless services in the city, Cork City Council is set to move ahead with the housing first initiative, which has been in operation in Dublin since 2014, in the coming months.
Cork City Council invited tenders for the provision of the service. This selection process has now been completed and the tender has been awarded to Cork Simon and Focus Ireland who submitted a joint bid.
The project will provide for the housing of 40 individuals who are long term residents of emergency accommodation over the next three years with additional supports being provided on a case by case basis by the Cork Region Housing First Team.
Cork City Council has committed to providing 20 units of accommodation with a further 20 units being provided by Cork Simon and Focus Ireland.
This will result in the freeing up of 40 emergency beds as the majority of these bed nights are used by this client group.
In addition to rolling out the housing first approach in Cork, Cork City Council will also take over the operation of the Homeless Persons Unit, currently located on Drinan Street, from the Department of Social Protection before the end of the month.
From January 21, the day-to-day management of the service will instead be provided in Cork City Council's civic offices on Anglesea Street.
A more suitable city centre premises to accommodate this unit is being sourced and will be fitted out over the next number of weeks, after which time the Homeless Persons Unit will be operated permanently from there.
This intervention by the council will result in the provision of an improved, modern facility for persons presenting as homeless in the city, according to Cork City Council.
The Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Mick Finn said that the new initiatives may make some difference in tackling homelessness. However, he added that building houses is the only solution to the problem.
Mr Finn said: “While acknowledging that the provision of additional housing - driven by national government as well as local - is the key to solving homelessness, the provision of better services in a better building to address short and medium-term problems faced by people is welcome. Councillors have called for better facilities and I’m glad to see the housing department has acted upon those requests.”