By Sarah Canty
THERE has been a sharp rise in homelessness in West Cork, according to a report by a HSE and County Council-funded housing project.
There were 57 referrals made to the service from January to June 3rd, according to Novas Initiatives’ West Cork Tenancy Support and Sustainment Service.
This was a 38.6% increase compared with the longer period of January to the end of June 2015. According to Novas’ West Cork co-ordinator and report author Patrick Healy, the significant rise in people experiencing homelessness may indicate a worrying forecast for 2016.
All areas of West Cork have been affected, but the towns of Bandon, Clonakilty and Bantry represented more than half of those referred.
Of the 57 referrals, 36 individuals and families (including 37 children) have accessed the service.
More than half of those who accessed the services were Irish, followed by people with UK, European, and Irish Traveller backgrounds.
The report also found that mental health is a leading cause of homelessness in West Cork, with over one third (36.1%) of individuals and families accessing the service saying they were experiencing mental health issues at the time.
Healy also said that there are serious concerns that the lack of appropriate accommodation alongside stressed resources in community-based mental health supports could result in a significant rise in homelessness in the West Cork area with those who are experiencing chronic mental health issues.
Some landlords are willing to accept Rent Supplement but not HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) and this may potentially place a further number at risk of homelessness, the report added. This trend, and the potential reasons for it, will be investigated further in 2016, it promised.
Novas Initiatives is a voluntary agency funded by the HSE and the Cork County Council that works with single adults, families and children who are disadvantaged and socially excluded, primarily those who are homeless, or at risk of being homeless.