“People have become trapped in the revolving door of homelessness,” said Sam McGuinness, chief executive of the Dublin Simon Community.
“If we look at our emergency services for 2015, there was only a one in ten chance of moving out of emergency accommodation into a home.”
At the launch of the charity’s 2015 report in Dublin yesterday, Mr McGuinness said 90% of its residents were deemed long-term homeless — without a home for longer than six months.
Some 59% of people in emergency accommodation have been homeless for more than two years.
Mr McGuinness said that rough sleeping across the city increased by almost a third (32%) over the past year, despite the provision of 195 extra emergency beds.
The number of people bedding down outside for the night increased from 80 in August 2015 to 106 in August 2016.
“We are averaging at 150 so far in September, with the figure at 168 this morning,” said Mr McGuinness yesterday.
He noted that the number did not include the 60 people without a bed in the Merchants Quay Ireland night cafe.
“We are doing real work to keep people alive. The problem is we are not moving fast enough,” said Mr McGuinness.
He said that the number of rough sleepers recorded by the charity did not include those sleeping in public parks.
Dublin Simon Community estimated around 25 people were sleeping rough in the Phoenix Park and between ten and 15 slept in St Stephen’s Green. Some people also slept rough in the park in Merrion Square.
Last year, the charity provided over 230,000 meals to individuals who were homeless. Every month, more than 150 people received housing assistance, harm reduction, and medical services by its team.
Dublin Simon Community worked with 416 families across Dublin, Kildare, Wicklow, and Meath to move them out of homelessness or to sustain their tenancy. This was a doubling of the number of families in a year.
The charity’s visiting tenancy support service, which operates in the Dublin City Council area, found that the number of people at risk of homelessness had increased by 21%. In 89% of cases, the charity succeeded in helping people avoid the trauma of homelessness.
Housing Minister Simon Coveney said the response thus far had not been enough, but that the Government would get on top of the issue.
Speaking on the first day of the National Ploughing Championships in Screggan, Co Offaly, Mr Coveney said that the situation had been getting “dramatically worse”.
However, while the number of families becoming homeless is still increasing, it has slowed down slightly.
“There is no shortage of ambition here in terms of responding to what is undoubtedly a really challenging problem,” said Mr Coveney.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny will launch the homeless pillar of the housing strategy tomorrow.
“We are going to get on top of this problem, but it’s going to take time to do that,” said Mr Coveney.
‘I worried about my father when he was on the streets’
Gerry fears he will die on the streets like his father. An alcoholic struggling to quit, he ended up like his dad — homeless.
Despite relapsing recently, the staff and volunteers of the Simon Community continue to do everything they can to help him.
“Will I get this or will I die on the street like my father, like a drunk? How can I change?” he wrote last year.
Gerry had reached rock bottom — his life had become unmanageable, and his family had abandoned him.
When Gerry relapsed, he was again admitted to the charity’s residential alcohol detox unit at Ushers Island in Dublin.
He began a recovery programme three weeks ago and is hopeful that he will finally get his life back on track.
The programme helps individuals rebuild their lives through addressing their addictions as a barrier to exiting homelessness.
The charity is planning to expand their facility in Ushers Island to provide additional post treatment beds.
The waiting list for a bed in the detox unit increased from 27 days in 2014 to 31 last year, with only one in every 10 people completing a rehabilitation programme and moving to housing.
Gerry feels he is in a very “positive place” again because the charity did not give up on him.
A year ago, he wrote about doing “the right thing” — he no longer wanted to escape into a fantasy world of make believe and lies and despair.
He recalled talking to his mother and daughter the first time he gave up drinking, they were delighted that the Simon Community were giving him the support he needed.
“How I used to worry about my father when he was on the streets, and every time I drink it is the same worry I put the people I love through,” he said.
But when the addiction gripped him he saw nothing but darkness — he just wanted to drink and forget and go deeper and deeper down to a place of destruction.
The Simon Community wants to help Gerry discover who he is without alcohol; to be good to himself and to be kind to people around him.
Last year, 70% of people starting the detox programme were homeless for more than six months, and 50% were homeless for more than two years.
During the year the number people accessing the charity’s treatment, recovery and counselling services increased by 31%.