End this homeless crisis through action

It is clear that the housing crisis and homelessness is getting worse, not better, says Ger Spillane, Focus Ireland Cork Manager, who has called for more meaningful steps from government
End this homeless crisis through action
Ger Spillane, Focus Ireland; Cllr Mick Finn, Lord Mayor of Cork; Philip Gillivan, Cork Business Association, and Rachel Murphy, Focus Ireland, pictured at the Focus Ireland "Shine A Light" Sleep out 2018. Picture: Michael O'Sullivan /OSM PHOTO

THERE has been a lot of talk about homelessness in the last two weeks, with the Taoiseach claiming the crisis kept him awake at night.

The reality is, I have never seen it so bad. Christmas, 2016, saw 2,505 children homeless. By last Christmas it had risen by 23%, to a total of 3,079 children homeless.

Now, in 2018, there are 3,725 children homeless. When we include adults there are now a shocking total of almost 10,000 people homeless nationwide.

It is clear that the housing and homelessness crisis is getting worse. In Cork City & County there are 349 adults experiencing homelessness.

We, in Focus Ireland Cork, put our energy into helping those impacted, and finding practical solutions.

We need to end homelessness in Ireland because it is morally and fundamentally wrong.

Last year we marked ten years of challenging homelessness and changing lives in Cork through our work providing services and housing in the county since 2007.

A decade on and Focus Ireland has seen a steady rise in numbers presenting, and of those who are at serious risk of losing their home in Cork.

Across Ireland in 2018 more children have been born into homelessness than ever before.

Some of them will spend their first Christmas stuck with their family, forced to live in one little room together.

They are our children too and we have a duty as a society to provide a safe home for them.

This is what we are working to do.

Our Family Team helps at least one family a day to secure a home and escape the nightmare of homelessness.

However, at the same time at least three more families are still losing their homes and becoming homeless every day. More single people are also being forced into homelessness due to rising rents, evictions and a critical shortage of affordable housing.

How can we stand by while families and their children who are homeless are forced to live in one hotel room for months at a time?

There is nowhere safe for the children to play, do their homework or for the family to even cook a meal.

This is causing terrible damage for these families and also the many single people who are homeless stuck in hostels or some even sleeping on the streets.

Focus Ireland continues to put forward realistic policy solutions to help prevent and end homelessness. We do this work through our lifeline services nationally, at 27 South Mall, Cork City and around the country.

While the crisis is still deepening the situation would be much worse without the lifeline services and housing we provide.

We are there when people need us. We have helped more than 13,000 people from January to end of September this year — this is a 6% rise from the 12,270 helped compared to the same period in 2017.

We supported more than 350 families to secure a home and escape homelessness from January- September 2018.

While the State supports some of our work Focus Ireland also has to raise 40% (or €2 out of every €5) of what it costs to keep our services and housing running through donations corporate support.

We work hard to support families and individuals every day and not just at Christmas, but we depend on donations now more than ever to raise funds so our services can cope with the constantly rising demand.

I am asking people to please give what they can afford to support our urgent Christmas appeal.

Focus Ireland always stresses that every euro donated counts in the battle against homelessness as 89 cents of every euro received goes directly to our services to support people who are homeless and those at risk.

It is vital our society does not lose sight of the fact that homelessness can be prevented — and ended — if the right decisions are taken. We need more homes to end this crisis, not more hotel rooms.

The Government appears to be just accepting this as a natural phenomenon is can do nothing about. But in fact it can take several meaningful steps to make people more secure in their homes. Much more can — and must be — done if we are to end this terrible human crisis and protect the childhoods of nearly 4,000 children homeless.

We also need a massive rise in the numbers of social homes being built. The Government must also implement a specific family homelessness strategy that includes a commitment that no family will be left without shelter and a cast iron deadline that no family will be homeless for more than six months. This needs to be done now.

Any donation will support our work challenging homelessness and changing lives as we help over 14,500 each year who are homeless or at risk.

We also provide 1.200 homes nationwide. People can please donate at www.focusireland.ie or phone 1850204205.

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