Pressure mounts on Simon with centre at capacity nightly

SIMON Community centres around the country – which provide aid to the homeless – are facing growing pressure on their services, with the Cork Simon revealing they are full to capacity every night.

The revelation came as the Simon Communities of Ireland launched its annual report for 2008, ahead of the Government target for next year of eliminating rough sleeping and long-term homelessness.

The chief executive of the Simon Communities in Ireland, Patrick Burke, said: “We know that Cork Simon’s Emergency Shelter is full every night [44 beds].

“In the North East, Dundalk Simon has experienced an increase in those accessing their emergency services, with more intensive support people have been facilitated to move more quickly into appropriate accommodation with the support of the settlement team.”

Just this week a Dublin Simon health audit of 300 service users found that more than one-quarter of clients had been homeless for less than a year, while mental and physical health problems were rife, often linked to substance abuse.

Yesterday’s comments were made as the Minister with Responsibility for Housing Michael Finneran said he was setting a target of 4,000 vacant units being used to help those seeking a home next year.

Mr Finneran said €62 million was available for homeless services, plus an additional €1m from the Dormant Accounts Fund.

He also said he was committed to the Capital Assistance Scheme and his department was continually working on it.

He said while not all local authorities had fully participated with the long term lease homes scheme, new figures from his department showed that 2,017 houses had been leased this year, and that he intended the target for next year to be 4,000.

He said 22,000 homes were provided by the voluntary sector and therefore they should be allowed to get involved in long-term leasing programmes, particularly as there were 55,000 people around the country interested in being re-housed.

The minister said departmental figures placed the number of empty units around the country at 40,000, but he said the real figure could be double or even triple that number.

“We will pick and choose what is available and what meets our needs,” he said.

The chairman of the Simon Communities, Denis Doherty, said the organisation was dependent on statutory funding from a variety of state departments, and Patrick Burke, said the maintaining of homeless funding in the recent budget was “an outstanding achievement”.

However, he said that Simon were less confident regarding funding streams from elsewhere, stating the HSE is to undergo a 5% cut and that how this might impact on homeless services would have to be monitored.

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