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'They told me I was getting a home ... it was real surreal'

Focus Ireland launched its annual report for 2018 this morning.

Brian Somers
Brian Somers
Image: Focus Ireland

BRIAN SOMERS BEGAN abusing solvents when he was just a child. 

Through the years, this gradually led to him using class A drugs, imprisonment and homelessness. 

When his daughter turned a year old, he decided to “get clean” for the first time. However, he soon relapsed. 

11 years ago, some time after his relapse, Somers’ entered the Coolmine addiction treatment centre. This time, he was successful with coming off drugs. 

After nine months clean and living in emergency accommodation, Somers received the news that he was going to be housed.

“I remember going to a meeting with Focus Ireland … and they were telling me that I was getting this place from Dublin City Council. I actually thought they were telling me lies,” Somers said today, speaking at the launch of Focus Ireland’s 2018 annual report. 

“It was real unfamiliar and it was real surreal,” he said. 

Fast forward to today. Somers now works as an homelessness case manager with Coolmine Rehab Centre and helps others on their path to recovery. 

His story was included in Focus Ireland’s 2018 annual report. 

“As focus Ireland’s motto says ‘Challenging homelessness and changing lives’ – they most definitely have changed mine,” he says in the report. 

Annual report

Focus Ireland today announced that it helped a record number of over 15,500 people last year who were homeless or at risk – a 7% rise on the year previous. 

The charity said its housing wing, Focus Housing, had provided an additional 176 homes last year. The charity provided 184 homes in 2017. 

“I am proud we’ve delivered 495 homes over the last three years and are on track to achieve our target of doubling our housing stock by 2020. By the end of 2018, Focus Ireland owned or managed a total of 1,176 homes for people who were previously homeless or at risk,” Focus Ireland CEO Pat Dennigan said. 

July – the latest month for which figures are available – was the sixth consecutive month in which emergency accommodation figures remained over 10,000. 

In July, a total of 10,275 people were recorded in emergency accommodation in Ireland  – 6,497 adults and 3,778 children. 

Focus Ireland has said that last year it supported over 1,600 families who were homeless and that it helped over 500 families to leave homelessness. 

Meanwhile, the charity said it provided 5,891 people with advice and information. 

A total of 434 people took part in Focus Ireland’s education programme last year. 

The charity also served a total of 44,276 hot meals to those in need last year. 

In the annual report, Focus Ireland found Sr Stanislaus Kennedy highlighted the financial and human cost of homelessness, and noted the damage being done to children. 

“The consistent response by the government in recent years to homelessness has been to say that it takes time to tackle the crisis,” Sr Kennedy said. 

“However, the nearly 4,000 children who are homeless don’t have time. They are having their childhood’s stolen by homelessness and every day spent in homelessness is doing them harm. 

Sr Kennedy said she is “very concerned” about the government’s “continued focus on the delivery of family hubs rather than permanent homes”. 

“We need the government to set a cast-iron deadline that no person or family would be homeless for longer than six months and we also need a detailed sub strategy on family homelessness to get to grips with this ever deepening crisis,” she said.

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