Irish News

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Homeless numbers soar

Published 24/09/2013|08:11

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Last year, an average of 1,378 people stayed in emergency accommodation every night in the Dublin region

The number of people sleeping rough on the streets of inner city Dublin has increased by 88% since last year, a new report has revealed.

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Amid warnings that Government plans to end long-term homelessness by 2016 are in serious jeopardy, the Dublin Simon Community said current levels of those on the street were at an all-time high.

Sam McGuinness, of the charity that conducted the survey, warned the threat of further cuts to supports in the forthcoming budget could put vulnerable people in more danger.

"The need for accommodation and assistance for those with nowhere to go, and whose existence has become harsh and dangerous, is the highest we have ever seen," Mr McGuinness said.

"What is extremely worrying is that many people who have accessed our emergency accommodation do not have the suitable housing they require.

"In present uncertain times, with limited emergency accommodation, housing shortage, rent increases and rent allowance restrictions, the pressure for beds is frantic."

Some 85 people were found sleeping rough over the course of one night in September.

The Simon Community warned that figure could be much higher as its early morning counts do not include the so-called "hidden homeless", who stay in hospitals, internet cafes and squats.

It said the numbers of those bedded down in the inner city centre - between Jervis Street, Amien Street and Harcourt Street - had increased by 66% in the first six months of this year from the same period in 2012, and by 88% in the third quarter from the same time last year.

The charity, which will launch its annual review for 2012 today, said its rough sleeper team had made contact with 4,271 people, distributed 22,700 sandwiches and hot drinks to people on the street, and issued 2,500 needle exchanges in the year.

More than 40% of those who accessed its emergency service had been homeless for more than five years.

Mr McGuinness said providing suitable housing was the charity's priority.

"We are cognisant of the fact that bricks and mortar alone will not solve homelessness," he said.

"Our efforts will be enhanced by offering support to those who move on from homelessness and, by providing preventative measures, ensuring people do not become homeless at all."

The Simon Community's housing development fund received 2.1 million euros from a state capital assistance scheme in 2012.

That, coupled with its own funding of 1.5 million, gave the charity a pot of 3.6 million euros.

But Mr McGuinness said the charity was expecting cuts to Government funding when the budget is announced on October 15.

"The homeless sector has already absorbed massive reductions and we are expecting further cuts," he said.

"This will mean that since 2008, we have experienced severe decreases, making it extremely challenging to tackle the alarming rise in demand for housing and support services to the most vulnerable in our society."

The charity's annual review for 2012 also found that 4,192 people accessed its mobile health clinic over the year.

Almost 400 used its treatment services, which includes a residential detox, rehab and aftercare, a new HIV respite and stabilisation service, and counselling.

Around 230 people took courses run by the charity in computer literacy, art and creative writing.

Press Association

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