This housing crisis in Cork and nationwide must be ended

Focus Ireland Southwest Regional Services Manager GER SPILLANE writes about the deepening homelessness crisis in Cork and nationwide and asks people to support Focus Ireland’s urgent Christmas appeal
This housing crisis in Cork and nationwide must be ended

NEW HOMELESS: Demand for housing is completely outweighing supply. Picture:Stockposedby model

WE can all take home for granted a lot of the time. But deep down we all know what it means. Our home is the foundation stone of our personal and family life. It is where we can relax after a long day. It’s where we belong and feel safe.

Sadly, not everyone has this security. The recent death of Timmy Hourihane shook not just Cork but the whole country. Homelessness of any kind is wrong, whether it is sleeping in a tent like Timmy was in the Mardyke or a family of five in in a tiny hotel room.

The sad reality is that the total number of adults who are officially homeless in Cork has increased from 354 to 435 in just one year, according to recent figures from the Department of Housing. This means Cork has the second highest increase in the number of adults who are homeless for this period nationwide.

The number of families who are homeless in the South-West region (Cork and Kerry) has also risen to 124 families compared to 116 twelve months ago, including 288 children. The harsh fact is that three families will lose their home in Ireland every day. It is truly shocking there’s now a record total of 10,397 people homeless. Nearly 4,000 of these are children.

While the numbers are highest in Dublin this is a national crisis. A total of nearly 500 families and over 1,000 children are homeless nationwide outside of the capital city.

The Government’s response has been that it takes time to end this crisis. These children don’t have time. They are damaged every day while homeless.

Focus Ireland does not stand on the side-lines, we make a difference. In partnership with the State and our supporters, we helped over 1,200 families to escape from homelessness and to secure a home in the last two years.

Focus Ireland Southwest Regional Services Manager Gerard Spillane.
Focus Ireland Southwest Regional Services Manager Gerard Spillane.

However, the sheer scale of the housing and homelessness crisis means that the number of people homeless continues to rise despite this great work.

In my seven and a half years working for Focus Ireland in Cork I did not ever think that things could get worse but they sadly have done.

Families and individuals are losing their homes as they can’t afford to pay the rent or the house is being sold or repossessed. They have been called “The New Homeless”. That is the people who become homeless for purely economic reasons.

Many families who are homeless are squeezed into hotel rooms across Cork — five or six people in one room, nowhere to cook or for children to play. It would break your heart to see where these children are forced to live.

The crisis in Cork has continued especially in the last 12 months as rents are now comparable with Dublin prices. One of the reasons for the high number of adults who are homeless is that demand is completely outweighing supply and the fact that Rent Pressures Zones are being ignored by many landlords.

There are numerous cranes across Cork but unfortunately its offices and hotels that are being built as opposed to affordable housing. In addition, the lack of one bed bedroom apartments is also a serious contributor to the number of homeless adults, particularly single people. An offset of the crisis in the city is that many individuals and families are now being forced out of the city, to towns such as Mallow, Middleton and Cobh where rents are also increasing in the county.

Focus Ireland believes that as a country we have a duty to look after all our citizens, especially those who are most vulnerable. We must cherish all of our children equally and ensure that no child suffers from being homeless.

OUR WORK IN CORK

We work hard to do this as we continue to develop realistic policy solutions to help end homelessness. Focus Ireland also work through our services in Cork and across the country so we are there when people need us the most. This amazing work is done in partnership with the State, as well as through kind support from our generous donors.

In Cork city and county our long term housing provides 18 units of accommodation for single people, couples and families. We currently house 19 adults and 18 children on a full and part time basis in our properties. These properties are provided to those at risk of homelesness who need long term support so they can have and keep a home.

In 2018 Focus Ireland in partnership with Cork Simon have undertaken to role out of the Housing First Model in Cork. Over the next three years, 40 units of accommodation will be sourced by Focus Ireland, Cork Simon and the Local Authority.

In addition 43 young people (18-24 year olds) accessed our services in Cork in 2018 and 16 young people entered Focus Ireland youth housing. During the same year Focus Ireland Cork were also proud to help young people, assisting 12 in long term accommodation and the same number in education and employment support. Focus Ireland are proud to make this difference in young people’s lives across Cork and nationwide.

How you can help I am asking the people of Cork to please give what they can afford to support our urgent Christmas appeal. A total of 89 cents from every euro is spent directly on our vital work to combat and prevent homelessness.

People can donate at www.focusireland.ie or 1850 204 205. Our work will continue with your kind support because this crisis must be ended.

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