Training and education opportunities taken during homelessness are giving hundreds of people a first step towards college degrees and personal progress.
Cork Simon Community has helped more than 850 people with a range of courses over the past decade, and its training and employment co-ordinator says the support is vital to help people move on even after they find accommodation.
Fiona Hagensen said some clients are so committed to their education that they sleep rough in Cork Simon’s day centre at night to turn up for training and courses during the day.
“Attending education is a motivating factor. It is something they can control in their lives whereas they can’t control their housing needs,” she said.
Cork Simon began funding an education and training programme in 2009, supporting people on courses ranging from basic literacy programmes up to degree level.
Many clients have moved on from Junior and Leaving Certificate to complete further education courses at Cork Education and Training Board Colleges, or to diplomas and degrees at CIT and UCC.
“We have noticed that our demographic has changed and we have fewer people doing Junior Cert, and more who want to go to post-Leaving Certificate courses, or to CIT or UCC,” said Ms Hagensen said.
She will speak at a seminar today as part of the Cork Lifelong Learning Festival about work towards a learning city that is inclusive and equitable. This was one of the headings around which the Unesco international conference on learning cities in Cork last September called for global action.
As well as people who are homeless, those at risk, or who have recently been housed are helped by Cork Simon Community’s training and education services through agencies across the city.
They also help clients at the Cork City Council-funded Cork Foyer and Bishopsgrove, a new council-run housing project for young people at risk of homelessness.
“We have found repeatedly that housing is just one of our clients’ needs and, that if we want to re-integrate people into communities, we need to help them move on from homelessness in more ways than one,” Ms Hagensen said.
She said education and training provide a support network, providing meaningful use of their time and bolstering their physical and mental health.
“Time and time again, we see how education builds self-esteem and helps people fully move on in their personal journey. Without education and additional supports, many people, even when they eventually have a roof over their head, don’t move on psychologically,” said Ms Hagensen.
Classes, exhibitions, tours and lectures are continuing across the city until Sunday as part of the Cork Lifelong Learning Festival.
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