Editorial

West Cork’s hidden homelessness issue

November 1st, 2020 11:40 PM

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REFERRALS to the housing charity Novas from the West Cork area have increased by more than 400% over the past five years, which reflects a growing problem of rural homelessness. particularly in the Munster hinterlands, according to its head of policy and communications, Dr Una Burns. She confirmed that, in West Cork, a record number of people have been supported by Novas.
While homelessness is regarded as an acute problem, especially in bigger urban areas where people can be seen sleeping on the streets at night, it is less obvious in rural areas, but the underlying problem is still there. Some 61% of homeless people who sought Novas’ services last year were women and, unfortunately, the stigma of homelessness in small close-knit communities and families often prevents people seeking help.
The official homeless statistics do not necessarily include everyone who has difficulty with their housing situation especially cases of domestic violence – which have increased during the Covid-19 pandemic – people couch surfing, those in substandard accommodation, on hospital stays and in direct provision. Increasing rents, a lack of accommodation and an increasing number of properties moving to the short-term holiday rental market are all contributing to this ‘hidden issue,’ according to Novas’ annual report.
The charity provides intensive family support, addiction and recovery services as well as help for those who have lost their homes and are at risk of homelessness. However, since last year, the pandemic has curtailed services, including face-to-face meetings between Novas clients and key workers.
In fairness to Cork County Council, it has stepped up the building of social housing, but it still falls short of what is required, especially the increasing amount of smaller units that are needed.

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