'Things have gotten far worse for people since Covid': Cork outreach group sees huge surge in need due to pandemic

'Things have gotten far worse for people since Covid': Cork outreach group sees huge surge in need due to pandemic

Cork Outreach staff doing the street run to the homeless people in Cork recently.

CORK Kerry Outreach Care have experienced a huge surge in the number of people requiring help in recent months.

The centre, which is based in Skibbereen, aims to support the most vulnerable in society along with their families. Their priority is to help people reclaim a positive and healthy lifestyle.

CEO Caroline Farry says they have seen a sharp rise in people seeking help since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Things have gotten far worse for people since Covid,” she says. “We have lots of homeless people in West Cork. We are bursting at the seams with requests. We have people coming to us now who would never have sought help previously.

“We never ask questions. I just want to know, how many in the family and what ages are the children?”

Caroline has called on the government to provide more help and in particular make better use of the many buildings lying empty around the county.

“We should be able to open more empty buildings for the homeless,” she says. “What galls me is that the government can currently put the homeless into bed and breakfast accommodation due to Covid, but when this is over, why not keep them there?

“We have people losing their jobs now and they have massive mortgages to pay back. They are so scared. People have seen a huge drop in their monthly income which has serious knock on repercussions. The government should be looking into this.”

The group receive no government funding. They rely totally on generous donations from members of the local community. Caroline is proud of the great work her team are doing despite their lack of financial resources.

“I don’t get any funding from the council,” she says. “It is just the will of the people and my team. I started Outreach Care in 2019.

“Our main goal is to get people off the streets, feed them, clothe them and get them into rehab if necessary.

“Since we started, I have got 36 people into rehab. 32 are clean and sober and they have completed their programme. They now have a life beyond their wildest dreams once again. They are all working. Some of them are working with me. They are keen to give back.”

Caroline and her team do food runs, provide clothes and accommodation for the homeless.

Caroline warns that the stigma associated with homelessness is dangerous and anyone can fall into trouble.

“Everyone has this thought of people who are homeless, that they have a substance abuse,” she says. “That is not correct. But for the grace of God go I.

“I have people coming to me who have lost their job and can’t afford to pay their rent.

“They may be foreign nationals and they may be on their own in this country. We do our best to get them sorted.

“My logo is each one, reach one, let no-one be lost. I have opened my family house to people coming out of rehab. This also provides them with an address to get back up and running again.

“There is a gap in the market when they come out of rehab. They are not ready for the community. They come back out and they might have no home.”

Caroline’s next goal is to set up a centre for vulnerable women. She hopes to have this centre established by March 2021. The aim is provide a safe environment.

“I hope to open a house in West Cork for women,” she says. “Women are very vulnerable. When I get them off the streets and into rehab, they have nowhere to go when they come out. It will provide them with a safe environment to rehab in. It also provides them with an address.

“It helps ease them back into community life and get them in contact with their families. A lot of these women might have lost contact with their children, so we will work with the various agencies to get them back in contact once again.”

Caroline is keen to stress she is surrounded by a great team. She is grateful to them and to the general public for their kind donations.

“I am very proud of my team,” she says. “We are based in West Cork, but we look after everyone throughout the county. We rely on donations. It is the will of the people. People donate money, clothes and furniture. Everything helps and makes a difference.”

Caroline is proud of the help she and her team are providing to the most vulnerable in society, but has warned they need help from the various stakeholders to keep making a difference.

“Life can be a vicious circle. We have to get people off this roundabout. It is all about giving people a second chance and getting people back on their feet.

“The Cork Kerry Outreach Care makes a difference. We are working seven days a week. The situation is getting worse. We definitely need help. We need help from the council. I want to keep us community based however. The spirit of the Irish people is getting us through this.”

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