Sharp rise in homelessness sees up to seven people turned away from Cork shelter

Sharp rise in homelessness sees up to seven people turned away from Cork shelter
Rough sleeper in Cork. Photo: Billy macGill

CORK Simon is having to turn away up to an average of seven people a night from its Nightlight Service after 11pm, the last opportunity for people to get a bed in the city each night due to a significant increase in homelessness.

The charity’s emergency facility at Anderson’s Quay has 47 beds and room for 15 mattresses on the floor through its Nightlight Service. The Nightlight service was introduced in November 2018 as a temporary measure but has had to remain in place due to demand.

However, a sharp increase in people seeking shelter has meant the facilities were unable to meet the increased demand in October.

Between January and August, Cork Simon [delete: was turning away] [insert: had to turn away on average] one person every second night because of overcapacity. In September, that went up to two a night. However, since October, six to seven people per night can’t access beds.

The charity’s communications coordinator Sophie Johnston said more emergency beds are urgently needed.

“We accommodate as many people every night as we possibly and safely can but every night the Shelter and the Nightlight are over-capacity. Because of the extra capacity created by our Nightlight service, there were enough emergency beds. However in recent weeks there has been a noticeable increase in demand for our services. During September we weren’t able to accommodate an average of two people per night because our services were over capacity and during the first three weeks of October this increased to seven people per night. It’s harrowing for the people we support to hear this and incredibly difficult for staff to tell people.” “These increases are very recent. It’s reflecting the continuous increases in the Department of Housing’s homelessness figures. There is a 27% annual increase in the amount of people in emergency accommodation in Cork.

“Despite everyone’s best efforts, more people are becoming homeless and extra shelter beds are needed in the city,” Ms Johnston added.

Councillor Thomas Gould said the latest trends in homelessness are “frightening”.

“Cork Simon need at least 10 more beds to be able to deal with this and they need them immediately. This is why people are sleeping in tents and doorways, they know they can’t get beds. It just goes to prove we need an extra place in Cork outside of the St Vincent de Paul, Cork Simon, Edel House and other services.” The latest available figures from the Department of Housing show that 419 adults were classed as homeless in Cork with 208 of these in temporary or supported temporary accommodation.

“We need another standalone homeless shelter. The increases are huge. It has gone from three to four people a week to 40 or 50 people a week. That’s enormous.

“Some people are saying charities shouldn’t give out tents but what are they supposed to do if there is no room left at the inn? There are people sleeping rough because there is nowhere to go. The Government made a promise that there would be a bed for everyone but they have failed again.

“I met two homeless people, a couple, last Friday night and they told me they had been turned away by homeless services because there was no bed for them," Mr Gould added.

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