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Radical initiative see charities leasing flats for homeless in Cork

The plan will enable people to move on from homelessness to suitable and affordable housing – as well as ensuring others will not have to sleep on the streets.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

CHARITIES IN CORK are to lease out flats for homeless people in a radical initiative to tackle the growing number of people sleeping rough.

Cork Simon, St Vincent de Paul, Focus Ireland and Threshold are all working together on the project, which comes after “little action by Government” on the issue, they said.

The number of people sleeping on Cork streets increased from an average of two people per night last March to 10 a night last October. During the first 11 months of this year, a total of 157 people were recorded as sleeping rough on at least one night – compared to 38 different people in all of 2011.

Because of this, Cork’s main emergency shelters are under pressure, and both Cork Simon and St Vincent de Paul have had to increase capacity to deal with the high demand.

New plan

The new plan will see Cork Simon, Focus Ireland and St Vincent de Paul lease 21 private rented flats directly from landlords, which will then be made available to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

The landlords will be guaranteed monthly rent and property maintenance of the one-bed homes, while tenants will have all the supports they need to help them maintain their homes and begin piecing their lives back together, said Cork Simon.

Cork Simon Community CEO, Dermot Kavanagh, said:

We simply no longer have enough emergency beds in Cork for everyone that needs one. This radical plan will free-up much needed emergency beds so that no one will have to sleep rough in Cork. It will ensure that people who are ready to leave homelessness behind them have access to suitable and affordable housing as quickly as possible, creating the space they need to start getting their lives back on track.

A major obstacle that people face when they are ready to move out of homelessness is finding suitable housing at a price they can afford, due to the Rent Allowance cap of €450 per month.

Ger Spillane of Focus Ireland said that alongside the rent and ongoing maintenance, they are guaranteeing landlords an assurance that their property will be returned in its original state at the end of the lease.

We’ll support every tenant for as long as is necessary. We’ve always wanted to move people out of emergency accommodation as quickly as possible, but the housing to do so simply wasn’t there. This new initiative will change that.

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Cork Simon Community, Focus Ireland, St Vincent de Paul and Threshold are jointly resourcing this new initiative from their own funding. They noted that Government spending to tackle homelessness has seen year-on-year cutbacks since 2008, with further cuts signalled for 2013.

Dermot Kavanagh said that the plan could not have happened without “the overwhelmingly generous support of the people and businesses of Cork”. “That generosity, coupled with the various charities pooling their resources and the co-operation of Cork City Council, will mean that no one should have to sleep rough in Cork over the coming months,” he said.

Constant cuts in government funding undermine our ability to respond effectively to the growing number of people becoming homeless. The solution to homelessness is access to appropriate housing with support – this plan is that solution in Cork.”

A number of leases have already been agreed with landlords and the first tenants started moving into their new homes in recent weeks. Paul Okere, Manager of the St Vincent de Paul Hostel in Cork, said they have already seen an impact, with instances of rough sleeping falling to an average of three people per night in the first two weeks of December. “We hope to see further improvements to that figure in the coming weeks,” he concluded.

Read: Number of people sleeping rough in Dublin increases>

Read: Homelessness video with a difference will make you cry>

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