Simon Coveney was speaking yesterday at the launch of Cork Simon’s 2015 annual report, which shows that it was the homeless charity’s busiest year ever.
Against the backdrop of decreasing numbers of rental properties, rising rents, and claims that landlords are still refusing tenants on the increased state rent support rates, the report shows:
- The charity supported almost 1,300 people last year;
- Rough sleeping has soared from 38 in 2011 to 345 last year;
- The average stay in its emergency shelter is now 46 days — the longest in a decade;
- Long-term homeless — people staying in the shelter for six months or more — has increased by 25%;
- The number of properties to rent in Cork dropped from 68 in May 2014 to 28 in August 2015.
Figures released by the ISPCC last night also show that about 2,000 children will spend the school summer holidays living temporarily, but long term, in hotels or B&Bs.
Despite the Government increasing rent supplement and housing assistance payment (HAP) rates last week, one Simon resident said she was turned down by 16 of 19 landlords she contacted last week — simply because she was in receipt of rent supplement.
Mr Coveney said that attitude from some landlords needs to change.
“One of the ways to do that is to ensure that the developments we have in the future are much more mixed developments — where we have social and private housing intermingled and people don’t recognise the difference between the two,” he said.
“That will deal with some of the prejudice that’s there amongst some landlords, it seems, who are looking for private tenants rather than tenants that are getting supported through either a HAP or rent supplement scheme.”
Mr Coveney said that the Government introduced tax measures last year to incentivise landlords to take tenants in receipt of state supports.
As he finalises a major housing strategy, due to be launched this month, he said the Government may consider what other measures can be taken to encourage more landlords to accept tenants on rent supplement or the HAP scheme.
Cork Simon director Dermot Kavanagh said while the charity experienced its busiest year ever last year, there are signs of hope.
He said the charity’s St Joachim and Anne’s building on Anglesea St has secured planning permission for conversion into eight independent flats.
He welcomed the rent supplement and HAP increases as a “very big step in the right direction”.
“The increases will help prevent more people from becoming homeless and knocking on our door,” said Mr Kavanagh.
However, he said the charity now needs to focus on tackling the long-term homeless crisis — those people sleeping rough and stuck in emergency shelters.
“People need housing, not emergency accommodation,” he said.
Homelessness volunteer honoured
A mother who was so moved by the plight of Cork’s homeless that she set up a volunteer group to help has been named Cork Person of the Month for July.
Christina Chalmers, from Ballincollig, began her campaign work about two years ago when she posted an appeal on Facebook asking for urgent supplies to help those sleeping rough. Some 60 volunteers responded to that initial request. Today, Ms Chalmers co-ordinates a huge army of volunteers, which are organised into groups, led by an experienced team member, which visit different known rough sleeping locations across the city, to distribute hot food, blankets, sleeping bags, and medical attention. But she said one of the most important things they provide is human contact and friendship.
She also recently fulfilled the lifetime wish of a homeless man by sending him to a Liverpool match in England, where he met some of his football heroes.
“Cork people have been very generous to us,”said Ms Chalmers. “We have been given a unit in Ballyvolane Commercial Park where we prepare food and care packages.”
Ms Chalmers’s now goes forward for possible selection as Cork Person of the Year.