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There's been a 50% surge in people seeking services at Dublin's oldest homelessness charity

The increase is being described by the Mendicity Institution as “alarming”.

Image: Mendicity Institution/Facebook

THE MENDICITY INSTITUTION, Dublin’s oldest working charity, says it has experienced a surge of 50% in people seeking its services in the past year. The increase is being described by the service as “alarming”. 

The charity, located near Usher’s Island in Dublin’s south inner city, provides meals six days a week for people who are homeless and vulnerable, in addition to homelessness and integration supports. 

Most of its service users – around 75% – are EU migrants from countries like Lithuania, Poland and Romania. 

The charity introduced a new service in the past year to help people with a language barrier access emergency accommodation. 

As it launched its annual census of service-users today CEO of the Mendicity Institution Louisa Santoro highlighted the finding that almost two-fifths of respondents to their survey only had access to ‘one night only’ bookings in homeless accommodation services – meaning they don’t know from one day to the next where they will be spending the night. 

The language barrier was proving a major obstacle for people seeking longer term accommodation – either from homeless services or in the private rental market, she said. 

“We have three native speakers here on the staff. We have a Russian speaker, a Polish speaker and a Romanian speaker so definitely it’s attractive for people to come and access supports in their native language,” Santoro said. 

Many of the people seeking help from the Mendicity are those who “fall through the cracks” of the system, Santoro said – mostly men who don’t have access to labour supports when they arrive in the country. 

“From our census, there were 18 different nationalities in a week using our services. Of those 18 nationalities, only three are English-speaking nationalities.

There’s a huge amount of people that arrived here to work in a time of full employment, that can work – but English is not their first language, so they are at a significant disadvantage.

By the time they seek out help, they are often “a while into their journey” and have used up most of their resources, she said. 

The 50% rise in the number of people using the charity’s services daily is down to an increase from 92 in 2018 to 138 this year. 

Asked about the factors behind the increase, Santoro said the rising cost of housing in Dublin was continuing to ratchet up pressure on vulnerable groups. 

“I mean, this affects every single sector of the population,” she said.

There’s no question that people who are here with English as a second language and working and gaining minimum wage or general operative roles are the most vulnerable when it comes to that high cost of housing.

The Mendicity’s Eastern European native speakers are attached to its employment integration service, which is funded by the Department of Justice.

The charity also runs a workshop for people who are long-term homeless, in addition to the food and day service, which has been in operation since 1818.

Launching their census findings today, Santoro called for a more joined-up approach to services for people who are homeless in the Dublin area.

“Homeless people need daytime supports and the Mendicity Institution provides that facility. The census findings show the demand for our services is increasing substantially.

“Despite this, the Mendicity Institution does not receive any statutory funding to support our daytime service provision which is completely untenable. We need to see this situation rectified by the government to enable us to manage the increased demand for our services.

The fact that the numbers of people using our services daily has increased by 50% since this time last year underlines the scale of the homeless and housing crisis in our society. It also highlights the need for the Government to adopt a multifaceted approach to tackling homelessness.
The solution does not just lie in just providing night-time accommodation, but also in recognising the importance of daytime services and integration and employment supports for homeless people.

The latest homelessness figures showed there are still more than 10,000 people in emergency accommodation in Ireland. 

The figures, covering the month of July, showed there were 10,275 people in emergency accommodation in Ireland – 6,497 adults and 3,778 children. 

It’s the sixth month in a row the homelessness figure has exceeded 10,000. 

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About the author:

Daragh Brophy

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