Charities warn homeless crisis is tip of iceberg
Published 25/11/2010 | 05:00
Cardboard begging cups and people sleeping in doorways long ago joined dole queues as one of the hallmarks of the recession.
But according to homelessness charities, we haven't seen anything yet.
A government plan was launched three years ago aimed at eliminating long-term homelessness by 2010, but like many promises made before the recession, it now rings hollow.
Charities say that more than two years after the recession began, its true effects on homelessness are only beginning to be felt on the streets.
And they are predicting that the numbers of people accessing their services will climb.
Olive Loughnan of the homelessness charity Focus Ireland said the growth in homelessness really became apparent a few months ago. She says it can take a number of years before a person who has fallen on hard times needs assistance.
"People have lost their jobs; they've got redundancy; they use up their savings. Then they go to their family and it's only when all of that has broken down that they lose their house," Ms Loughnan explained.
"They can't sleep on the couch anymore because they have overstayed their welcome. It's only then that they present as homeless, so even though people have been experiencing pain since 2008, it's only now that we are seeing them."
Tony Geoghegan of the Merchants Quay organisation said he had seen an increase in the numbers of foreign nationals turning up at his centre.
"People from other countries have no access to social services at all; they are offered a ticket out of Ireland but that's not an option for some of them," Mr Geoghegan said.
About 60pc of people using the Merchant's Quay drop-in centre were foreign nationals, said Mr Geoghegan.
A spokesman for the Homeless Agency told the Irish Independent that a recent survey of those sleeping rough in the greater Dublin area had not revealed any substantial increase in their numbers.
The exact figures have not been made public and are expected to be known in the coming weeks. But Mr Geoghegan questioned the survey.
"If you take a walk around the city you'll see more people sleeping in doorways than before. The methodology in the count is always questionable," he said.
"We see a lot of non-Irish nationals sleeping in tents or in bushes in the park and they wouldn't be easily found."
Yesterday, Focus Ireland and Merchants Quay reported a 66pc increase in the numbers of people visiting their drop-in centre in Temple Bar, Dublin.