Trebling in numbers sleeping rough as funds fall

Cork Simon has called on the Government to protect the homeless budget after a trebling in the numbers of people sleeping rough as its state funding was cut.

The staggering increase to a four-year high, and the full extent of the challenges facing the homeless charity, will be revealed at the launch of its annual report today.

It shows that more than 1,000 people turned to Cork Simon for help last year, with 161 people recorded as sleeping rough in the city on at least one night in 2012.

That’s a staggering 330% increase compared to 2011; an increase of 210% compared to 2010; and an increase of 41% compared to 2009.

The number of people sleeping rough began to rise in May, and continued to rise to a peak last October, when an average of 10 people per night were sleeping rough.

“It’s an indication of the high toll that the recession is beginning to take,” the report says.

The city’s emergency shelters and hostels were full every night and people had nowhere to go.

But despite a drop in State funding — Cork Simon’s funding from the Government fell to 56c of every €1 it received — the organisation managed to add four new beds to its emergency shelter.

It worked closely with other emergency accommodation providers in the city to manage all of the beds effectively.

However, crucially, it launched a new initiative to free up emergency beds by directly addressing the severe housing shortage for people ready to move out of homelessness.

In the first partnership of its kind in Ireland, Cork Simon teamed up with three other voluntary agencies to roll out the Cork Rentals Initiative — leasing suitable housing directly from landlords and renting them to homeless people ready to move out of shelters.

The numbers of rough sleepers finally began to fall last November as the combined response began to take effect.

However, the emergency shelter remains full every night — there are still 30 people stuck there long- term because they have no other option, and five people are still sleeping rough each night.

Dermot Kavanagh, Cork Simon CEO, called on the Government last night to protect the spend on homeless services in October’s budget.

He raised the issue directly with Taoiseach Enda Kenny last week at the official opening of a high-support unit on Victoria Rd in the city, which has helped free up five beds in the emergency shelter.

“Our focus for the next three years is on making sure that we have the right housing and the right supports in place so that by 2016 nobody has to sleep rough or live long term in emergency accommodation,” said Mr Kavanagh.

“But achieving this requires that the Government’s investment in homeless services is maintained at least at current levels.

“Without continued investment there can be little hope of the policy being a success or of the goals being achieved. We need to invest in the solutions to homelessness that we know are working, otherwise we will not be able to address these issues effectively.”

Cork Simon has more than 20 full-time volunteers, more than 80 full- time and part-time staff, about 1,000 part-time volunteers, and more than 14,000 donors who contributed over €2m to the charity last year.

Key stats

- Cork Simon Community supported 1,026 different people last year — 166 women and 860 men.

- At least 592 different people availed of the soup run.

- 410 different people stayed at its emergency shelter last year — no change since 2011. The shelter was full every night.

- 18% of those staying there were women; 23% were aged between 18 and 26.

- 41% were staying at the shelter for the first time, and just over half stayed there for seven nights or fewer.


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