Homeless crisis 'coming to a head'
"It's a very worrying situation."
That's how campaigns and communications manager of Cork Simon Community Paul Sheehan has described the significant increase in numbers sleeping rough in Cork. A new report released by the Simon Community shows that by the end of May 2012 numbers had exceeded the number of people recorded as sleeping rough in all of 2010 with a peak of 54 people in August 2012.
"One of the last effects of the recession is homelessness," said Mr Sheehan. "The worst position a person can find themselves in is to be homeless which is why we are only experiencing this increase now rather than one the recession first hit. It's coming to a head now and people are finding it more difficult to afford housing."
As well as people sleeping rough, there has also been a significant increase in the number of people using Cork Simon's soup run. 312 different people used the services from April to June 2012 and of these, 51 per cent of were in private rented accommodation.
Mr Sheehan continued: "These are the people who are on the brink of homelessness, they are living in private accommodation and because they are spending all their money on rent, they can no longer afford food.
"The rent cap introduced recently is certainly a factor in all of this. People are struggling and their resources are being stretched and anyone who finds themselves homeless are going to find it very hard to turn that around.
"There are hundreds of vacant units around the city, some belong to NAMA, and yet we have people sleeping rough on the streets. Something needs to be done about this and fast, time is not on our side. We at Cork Simon really hope numbers don't increase but it isn't looking good. We are working with the other shelters around Cork but we are all full every night which is very worrying, especially coming into winter."
In July, the Cork Independent featured the story of a pregnant single mother who was facing homelessness after her rent was found to be €1.15 over the maximum weekly limit to receive rent supplement.
Sinn Féin Cllr Mick Nugent proposed a motion calling on Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, to take a number of measures to alleviate the situation. This was defeated heavily in Cork City Council in July and he says now that a lot of people are out on a limb because of the rental cap.
"A lot of people are in very difficult situations because of this. The housing crisis is massive and we are now in a situation where there is 400 to 500 empty houses around the city. Because of staff shortages and cuts to local Government there isn't the staff to sort out the problem as soon as it needs to be. There hasn't been any progress.
"Apparently NAMA is allocating Cork city with 75 houses but I have no further details on that at this time but I will be addressing this in the next City Council meeting on 8 October. This is an ongoing story and we forecast that it would become an issue and now it has."