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Dublin: 14 °C Sunday 22 September, 2019
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People are being turned away from emergency beds in the Midlands "every week"

There’s been a surge in demand for the charity’s services.

THE MIDLANDS BRANCH of the Simon Community is being forced to turn people away from their emergency accommodation centres every week as a result of a surge in demand.

CEO of Midlands Simon Tony O’Riordan says they’ve experienced a surge in demand for services this year.

Stats from the organisation show there were 323 people seeking help from the charity in the first six months of the year. That compares with a figure of 431 for the entire of 2013.

“If that trend was to go on until the end of the year we’ll have seen a 30  per cent increase compared to 2013,” according to O’Riordan.

The charity runs 12 emergency beds across counties Laois, Offaly and Westmeath. In Westmeath, it’s the only service providing emergency accommodation to single males.

“That’s just one part of what we do.

Our focus is on getting people out of emergency accommodation and into homes of their own.

Anyone the charity is unable to facilitate in its overnight centres is referred back to the relevant town or county council, says O’Riordan. There were five such cases in just one week last month.

The Midlands region only receives 1.5 per cent of the Goverment spend on homelessness, so what’s really difficult is that we’re dealing with very scarce resources.

Invisible homelessness 

The problem might not be as visible in the region as it is in Dublin or the other large urban centres, O’Riordan says — as people sleeping in their cars or on the floors of friends’ houses aren’t appearing in any official stats.

The fact that our 12 emergency beds are full through the year is certainly an indicator of the extent of the problem.

An official review of homeless services carried out three years ago found that funding to tackle the issue in the Midlands region was well below the State average in absolute terms, on a per capita scale and the basis of the amount spent on each service user.

“It also found that services in the Midlands provide very cost effective services, and are configured in the right way in terms of attaining long term outcomes for people.

It’s not just about people being taken off the street. They’re also being supported into homes of their own.

Midlands Simon (File pic)

A Midlands Simon service-user who spoke to TheJournal.ie at an apartment in the region said he found it hard to express how how much the charity had helped him in recent years.

The 30-year-old man, who preferred not to give his name, said he had been battling depression and was experiencing other problems in the town he had been living in before seeking the charity’s help.

If it wasn’t for them I honestly think I’d be dead right now. Before Simon helped be I was in a very bad state. I couldn’t live independently.

Social housing

On a national level, the Simon Communities in Ireland have called on the Government to ring-fence a proportion of all social housing allocations in the country for people moving out of homelessness as part of next week’s Budget.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly announced the coalition’s new plan for social housing last week, which will force developers to provide up to 10 per cent of their housing units for social housing, and impose fines for leaving a site vacant.

The Government is also expected to introduce a new mechanism for funding the provision of such housing in the Budget, and Kelly said the issue would be “top of the agenda” in Tuesday’s package of announcements.

Read: What would the Greens do in Government? … Build, build, build

Read: Micheál’s leadership “a non issue” say Fianna Fáil’s three wise men

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