By BRIAN MOORE
There are almost 8,000 homeless people in Ireland today and in Cork city and county it is estimated that up to 400 men, women and children are accessing sheltered and temporary accommodation on a daily basis.
‘2017 has yet again seen an increase in those experiencing homelessness in the West Cork region with 101 referrals made to the service so far this year,’ said Patrick Healy at the Novas West Cork Tenancy Support and Sustainment Service - a voluntary organisation and Approved Housing Body working with families and single adults who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.
This is a 49% increase compared to the same period in 2016.
Of these referrals accessing the service, there were 40 families, including 90 children.
Women represent 67% of those supported by the service.
‘These figures are only the tip of the iceberg and do not fully account for those experiencing hidden homelessness, such as those couch surfing with friends and relatives who do not seek support from community or statutory services,’ said Patrick. According to the latest Census results, which were gathered during 2016, there were 893 families homeless on the night of the Census – a number including over 1,700 children.
However, an accurate figure for homeless families in the West Cork area is proving difficult to gather.
Una Burns, head of policy and communications at Novas, said: ‘The situation in Co Cork, and West Cork specifically, is a reflection of what happened nationally – a complete absence of social housing construction during the recession years, arguably when it was needed most.
‘We are now, at local and national level, feeling the impact of these social policies.
‘If local authorities had continued to build social housing at rates prior to the recession, which were not particularly high, we would now have 31,000 more social houses nationally.
‘Their absence is being felt everywhere from West Cork to Dublin city centre.’
Responding to The Southern Star this week, Cork County Council’s housing department said accurate figures for those homeless in West Cork are dependant on whether the homeless person registers with homeless services.
‘There are seven people on the housing list fitting the homeless criteria,’ a spokesperson said.
There are three people in hostels in the city who have chosen their ‘area of choice’ as West Cork, with two in emergency B&B accommodation in Dunmanway and Clonakility, one person is listed with no fixed abode and another person is in a short term let, which is deemed emergency accommodation in Clonakilty.
‘They can only be classified as homeless if they register with homeless services.
‘Anyone couch surfing of staying with family are not included in these figures,’ the spokesperson pointed out.
Cork County Council has committed to the building of 376 homes across the county as part of their countywide construction programme.
In West Cork some 128 homes are to be located. These include:Clonakilty (56), Courtmacsherry (15), Dunmanway (40), Skibbereen (6), Bandon (11) and Bantry (30).
The 11 homes planned for Bandon are currently at the construction phase, with a further 147 at various stages of planning and design.