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Water charges style protest needed?

Thursday, 9th November, 2017 9:30am

A social protest akin to those against the water charges is what’s needed to bring the homelessness crisis to a head and bring it to the attention of the Government.

That was the sentiment of Head of the Department of Sociology at UCC, Dr Niamh Hourigan yesterday as the Cork Simon Annual Report for 2016 was launched.

An average of 53 people per night in 2016 relied on its emergency bed accommodation compared to 50 people in 2015 and 47 people in 2014.

22 per cent of people staying in Cork Simon’s emergency shelter in 2016 were women, the highest percentage yet.

Dr Hourigan said: “The lesson of the water charges protest is that when people are really unhappy about something, and they communicate that, the political will does manifest eventually. It takes time but it does happen.

“I think there’s a lesson we can all take from that in facing into the homelessness crisis.”

Both the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Tony Fitzgerald and Dr Hourigan launched the report which highlights the pressure the housing and homeless crisis is putting on all of Cork Simon’s services.

At the launch at its emergency shelter on Anderson’s Quay, Cork Simon announced the opening of a Winter Night Shelter as part of a range of winter initiatives supported by Cork City Council in response to the homeless crisis.

Dr Hourigan continued: “The public have a really critical role to play. We need to communicate to our elected representatives that this is something we are not happy about.

“My concern will be that it will take some dreadful tragedy to bring this to a head. We know that there has been awful tragedies already but my concern, facing into an extremely cold winter, is that we are going to have even more tragedies down the line.

“And it will take to happen to bring that public anger to a head. Why should that be the case?” she said.

Speaking at the launch, Cork Simon’s Director, Dermot Kavanagh, said the continuing housing and homeless crisis meant that all of the community’s services were yet again operating at or above capacity.

He said that with the housing and homeless crisis continuing to drive the need for additional emergency beds this year, Cork Simon is responding with a Winter Night Shelter to operate from now until the end of March.

He said: “Our Winter Night Shelter is part of a range of winter initiatives supported by Cork City Council in response to the homeless crisis. We will be providing an extra 15 places a night at our Day Centre here in Anderson’s Quay from now until the end of March.

“It’s not by any means a place to call home but it will at least offer people warmth, shelter and some breathing space from life on the streets. What we really need is homes.”

Cork Simon’s Annual Report continues to be an online-only publication.

This year’s artwork was created by a student of Colaiste Mhuire in Buttevant called Gabiella O’Keeffe, following a competition among secondary school students.

Cork Simon Community’s Annual Report 2016:

· An average of 20 people per night were long-term homeless in Cork Simon’s emergency shelter compared to 14 people a night in 2015 and compared to 12 people a night in 2014.

· Cork Simon’s Day Service supported 737 people compared to 666 people in 2015 and compared to 633 people in 2014.

· 28 people were newly housed with the help of Cork Simon’s Housing Support Team. · Cork Simon developed a plan to increase its housing stock by 100 units by 2019.

· To this end, Cork Simon opened a second Aftercare House for people recovering from addiction. Planning permission was granted for the development of St Joachim and Anne’s on Angelsea Street into apartments. An Empty Homes campaign was launched urging people with empty residential properties to get in touch with a view to Cork Simon purchasing or renting them with the help of Government funding.

· Over 800 volunteers gave their time, energy and skills to Cork Simon, including 42 people from 17 different countries volunteering full-time.

· Almost 10,000 donors and companies throughout Cork and Kerry contributed €3.73 million.

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