As Cork Simon prepares for a busy Christmas, Communications Manager Paul Sheehan has warned of the “huge demand” the cold snap has put on services.
Mr Sheehan said the emergency shelter was already packed before the cold weather kicked in and has in this past week seen 80 people staying each night, double the numbers that were sleeping at the shelter each night during the pandemic.
“It’s putting huge pressure on right across the system but everyone is rising to the challenge,” he said.
Speaking to The Echo, Mr Sheehan said that the most important thing during the cold snap is checking in on people on the streets, making sure they’re okay, that they do not need medical attention and that they know there is space for them at the shelter if they want to come indoors.
“We make sure that space is available for everybody,” he said.
Cork Simon’s outreach team is currently checking in on people around the city several times each day, making sure any of their needs are met.
Mr Sheehan said that the outreach team works out of its day service which usually opens at 9am in the morning for rough sleepers to come in and get a shower or breakfast, see the health team if they need to, meet a support worker if they need to or to get a change of clothes or dry out their sleeping bag.
He said that Cork has been “really good” at coming together to help those most in need, particularly at times like these.
“Everybody really does pull together and there’s a really good sense of we’re all in this together and we can all rise to the challenge together.” Looking ahead to the busy Christmas period, Mr Sheehan said that Christms dinner will be served on December 25 for those staying at the shelter, those sleeping rough and those who are now “well on their way to leaving homelessness behind but might be feeling particularly lonely or isolated” on Christmas Day.
“Christmas is usually busy and it’s particularly challenging for people who are staying in the shelter because they are disconnected from families and Christmas is such an emotional time and it is all about family and that can dwell on peoples’ minds quite a bit and have an impact on their wellbeing.
“It can be a challenging day but at least there’s somewhere for people to go and someone for people to talk to if they need to.”