Four voluntary homeless agencies, frustrated with the Government’s inaction, have launched a radical initiative to tackle the “sleeping rough” crisis.
Cork Simon, Focus Ireland, St Vincent de Paul, and Threshold have joined forces to form the Cork Rentals and Housing Support Partnership to source flats in the private rental sector, and lease them directly from landlords to homeless people.
Cork Simon chief executive Dermot Kavanagh said the agencies “had to act”.
“A lot of government thinking around tackling homelessness is good but we feel things haven’t been happening fast enough.
“This kind of initiative can be effective and I think we can show, in a relatively short period of time, we can have an impact.”
The initiative comes against the backdrop of a surge in homelessness.
Figures from the 2011 census night showed 3,808 people — two thirds of whom were male — were counted in homeless shelters. Almost 80 people were sleeping rough.
Since then, as the economic crisis worsened, homelessness has followed suit: The numbers of people sleeping rough have tripled in Cork City alone.
Last week, Paul Doyle, 33, who regularly slept rough in shop doorways in Bray, Co Wicklow, was found dead beside the entrance to a Tesco Express.
The project, the first of its kind in Ireland, will be assessed in six months, and its findings reported back to the Government in the hope that it could be replicated nationwide.
The agencies plan to identify 21 flats and lease them at the market rate from the private sector.
The units will then be offered to homeless people at a rent that falls within the rent allowance cap of €450 per month. The partnership will pay the difference in rent.
Landlords are guaranteed an agreed rental figure, full management of their property, and an assurance their property will be returned at the end of the lease in the same condition as when the lease was agreed.
Housing support teams will provide one-to-one support to the tenants to help them maintain their tenancies and move away from homelessness.
Cork Simon has also increased the capacity of its emergency shelter to 48 beds a night, with space for 52 if needed.
The added beds, plus the beds freed up by people moving to the project’s flats, should create enough emergency shelter capacity to ensure nobody has to sleep rough over the coming months, said Mr Kavanagh.
“We need to demonstrate to Government that this can work, and can lead to a sustainable solution. We will review the scheme in six months and go back to Government and ask them to consider it as a targeted initiative that could work elsewhere.”
He described it as a low-cost solution compared to the costs associated with shelter provision.
“It offers a permanent rather than a temporary solution,” said Mr Kavanagh.
Meanwhile, work on one of Cork Simon’s high-support housing complexes on Victoria Rd is nearing completion. Five additional high-support beds are due to come on stream early in the new year.
They will help to free up beds in Simon’s emergency shelter.
In Dublin, older person’s charity Alone yesterday announced plans to provide five older people with their own homes.
Many of the new residents are coming from homeless services. Alone currently provides housing for 100 older people who were at risk of homelessness.
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