Thursday 13 December 2018

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INDOpinion

Cork Simon are ‘making a difference’

Wednesday, 12th September, 2018 4:55pm

This is an edited version of Dermot Kavanagh, Director of Cork Simon’s speech at the launch of Cork Simon’s 2017 Annual Report last week:

As you will see, much of what’s inside the annual report makes for grim reading yet again, but there is also some good news. So, what does the Annual Report tell us about 2017?

First of all, and hard to believe, a total of more than 1,400 different people in this small city had to turn to Cork Simon Community for help last year.

More than 800 people attended the Soup Run, with an average of 34 or more people coming each day – many on the edge of homelessness;

More than 330 people needed emergency accommodation in our shelter – including almost 57 people stuck there long-term or repeatedly because they had no other viable option.

More than 70 people stayed in our high-support housing because they required round-the-clock care. Over 100 people were supported in a Cork Simon flat, in private rented housing or in housing provided by other social housing providers – all of them working towards leaving homelessness behind them - making a total of more than 170 people in supported housing of one type or another.

Almost 800 people used our Day Service, including more than 200 people who needed healthcare from the HSE team of doctors and nurses based there.

Overall, the needs for nourishment, shelter, companionship and human kindness were great; we worked together as a community to respond and the support we received from the community was great

Our dedicated and hardworking professional staff team was supported by more than 20 full-time volunteers at any one time from 16 different countries, and hundreds of part-time volunteers – 150 working directly in our services and 500 supporting our fundraising efforts. We also had the support of more than 12,000 generous donors – these are the people that make Cork Simon a community.

The big challenge in 2017 was managing the growing pressure on services. In October with support from the city council, we put in place an extra 15 spaces for people to sleep in our day centre, to help minimise the number of people sleeping rough, and these extra beds are still in place, and they offer an option for people who would otherwise have to sleep rough every night.

We also put in place an additional three bed aftercare house to add to our existing four bed unit – we have since 2012 built a pathway from homelessness into addiction treatment and back out to aftercare housing to ensure that people with serious addiction problems have a real opportunity to access treatment and to put homelessness and addiction behind them for good.

Despite all the challenges our community is working. We are making progress in tough times. We are making a difference.

Our focus this year, next year and the year after is on making sure that we have the right housing and the right supports in place so that nobody has to sleep rough or live long term in emergency accommodation. We need the continued support of the general public, the business community and of Government if we are to achieve this.

We welcome Government and local authority moves to invest further in Housing First services to effectively tackle long term homelessness. While it is clear that housing and homelessness are now at the top of the political agenda, we are concerned that delivery is slow, and the numbers are trending constantly upwards.

I believe it is time now for the Government to revisit its strategy for preventing homelessness and bringing to an end this homeless crisis. We need now to see additional measures to control rising rents, ensure greater security of tenure for tenants and we need investment in new public and social housing at levels last seen decades ago. We need social housing to be delivered at a rate of at least 10,000 new units per year rather than the 2,200 or so delivered last year.

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