Surge in homeless families causing unprecedented pressures, charity

A homeless charity in Cork City has recorded a sharp increase in family homelessness over the past year, leading to pressure on beds and higher numbers being turned away.

Figures from the Good Shepherd Services (GSS) show that, like Dublin, the problem of homelessness in our second biggest city is also spiralling.

Chief executive Tony O’Riordan said the significant increase in family homelessness was largely down to women being unable to pay rent, which was putting “an unprecedented strain on our service”. Traditionally, homelessness was fuelled by poverty, unemployment, addiction, and family breakdown, he said.

Mr O’Riordan said up to 2013, there were times when its services were “100% full and times when they were 70% full”.

“But now we are persistently full,” Mr O’Riordan said.

In the first three months of this year, GSS provided 5,395 emergency bed nights to 113 women and children at Edel House — a 26% increase on the same period last year.

More women and children had to turned away than could be catered for. In the first quarter of 2015, 130 women and children could not be accommodated — a 26% rise on the figure of 98 for the first quarter of 2014.

Separately, figures supplied by Cork City Council yesterday show there were 232 singles and 22 families availing of emergency accommodation in Cork for the month of July, including 49 children and 258 adults.

Mr O’Riordan said the shortage of accommodation was so dire that recently, when two people using their service managed to secure private rented accommodation in a single week, “it was nearly party time”.

He said there were some weeks when nobody was successful in securing private rented accommodation.

When GSS ran out of beds, women and children were sometimes forced to sleep in unsafe or unsatisfactory accommodation, or ended up in hotels or bed and breakfast houses, Mr O’Riordan said.

Women who sought emergency accommodation at Edel House were often the victims of domestic violence, family conflict, or harassment, or had been discharged from hospital or prison and had nowhere to go.

Mr O’Riordan said they were joining with other homeless charities in calling on Environment Minister Alan Kelly to issue a directive to raise the rent allowance cap.

He said the current cap in Cork City for a one-child family was €700 a month.

Earlier this year Mr Kelly announced housing targets for each local authority area out to 2017. Under the Capital Assistance Scheme open to Approved Housing Bodies, €13.3m has been allocated to Cork City and €3.3m to Cork County towards the building and/or acquisition of more than 100 housing units.

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