Demand for emergency accommodation soars by 25pc in Cork
DEMAND for emergency accommodation in Cork soared by 25pc in just 12 months with 1,103 people now supported across the city by all Cork Simon services.
However, the charity's ability to provide greater housing access resulted in 54pc more people moving from homelessness to affordable independent accommodation.
For the first time in almost a decade, the number of people sleeping rough in Cork fell by 23pc in 2018.
The revelation came as the charity, for the first time, had a former service user launch their annual report in a bid to highlight the human cost of Ireland's housing crisis.
Jennifer Dennehy, who previously used Cork Simon services but who is now living independently for four years, delivered a hard-hitting account of the consequences of the lack of affordable housing in Ireland.
She explained how the trauma of her partner's death led her to drug use and then homelessness.
Jennifer spoke emotionally about how the love for her son - and the support of Cork Simon - eventually helped her turn her life around.
“I lost my home, I lost my child, I lost the man I loved – everything. Drugs took everything from me. I tried treatment but I wasn't ready to deal with the pain of everything and the guilt, because I was guilt-ridden. I left treatment and ended up on the street,” she said.
“I’ve lived a living hell and come out the other side. To have my own door, to feel safe at night, there's nothing like it. I'm blessed to have the place and the support from Cork Simon. My key worker has been there for me through everything and I am so grateful to have her. You need somebody that you can trust.”
“I felt I had to survive so I put a mask on. Today that mask is off and I am who I was always meant to be – a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a grand-daughter and hopefully someone who can help others. I want to let other people that are in addiction, and their families that are going through hard times, know that there's always hope there, there’s always help there - you've just got to be willing to accept it.”
Jennifer said that, without the support of Cork Simon, she dreaded to think where her life would have led.
“I never realised that, for a long time, I had everything in front of me - a good family. And family is the most important thing in the world.
Today they tell me how proud they there are of me. My brother tells me I'm the strongest women he knows. If I can pull myself back from where I was and have the life I have today, anyone can. Don't get me wrong, I have my bad days, I have days where I don't want to get up out of bed - but I do it, knowing that I've a second chance,” she said.
Cork Simon Director Dr Dermot Kavanagh said Jennifer's story underlined the challenges but also the hope facing the people who turn to the charity for help.
"Her story highlights many of the challenges that people we support faced in 2018 - in particular the severe lack of affordable and secure housing and the need for trauma-informed services that are sensitive to the needs of people who have often suffered great loss, isolation and anxiety,” he said.
Dr Kavanagh said that while 2018 was a very challenging year, the charity has reason to be positive.
“While rough sleeping fell for the first time in years thanks to extra capacity at our emergency shelter, more emergency accommodation is not the answer; adequate social and affordable housing is what is urgently needed so that more people, who are where Jennifer once was, can also have the opportunity to regain their lives,” he said.
In 2018, 1,103 people were supported across all Cork Simon services.
The charity brought 24 additional housing units on line in Cork with 43 people moved to secure, independent accommodation.
Cork Simon's housing support service assisted 194 people to maintain tenancies.
A total of 15 additional emergency accommodation places were provided via the Nightlight service.
Between the emergency shelter and Nightlight service, an average of 57 people each night relied on Cork Simon emergency accommodation.
425 people in total used our emergency accommodation throughout 2018 – a 25pc increase compared to 2017.
However, Cork Simon's Outreach Team recorded a decline of 23pc in the number of people sleeping rough, down from a nightly average of 19 in 2017 to 12 last year.
For the first time in four years, the number of people deemed long-term homeless in 2018 did not increase but remained static at 57 people.