THE HOMELESS support agency, Focus Ireland Limerick is providing 180 homes in the region and has supported a record number of 122 people through its Preparation for Education and Employment (PETE) programme last year.
Figures for May show that, not counting children, there are still 309 people homeless in Limerick.
The Focus Ireland Annual Report highlights the success of the Childers Road Family Initiative and ongoing progression from the PETE services locally.
The Childers Road Family facility saw ten of the 30 families housed locally move into permanent accommodation in the six months of 2017.
The organisation now provides 180 homes for men, women and children across the South-West and Mid-West.
122 men and women accessed Focus Ireland PETE educational services in Limerick during 2017, with 38 accessing higher education and ten securing employment as a result.
This year sees Focus Ireland mark twenty years of service provision in Limerick City and County.
Focus Ireland Limerick Manager Ger Spillane is urging local people to get behind the organisation as the crisis bites. This follows a steady rise in the number of local people seeking help and a steep increase in those who are at serious risk of losing their homes.
“We are playing our part to support people in housing need and those who are homeless here in Limerick. Our local staff also help keep people in their homes and prevent them from becoming homeless through our tenancy support and settlement service,” he explained.
“We are in the middle of the worst homelessness crisis in living memory and it’s vital we speak about this and call for more to be done. However, it’s important to also speak about the success stories as these show homelessness can be ended. It also puts a human face to the dreadful figures”
One young Limerick woman told how she battled through becoming homeless and how she later turned her life around with the help of Focus Ireland.
Marie (21) said: “I was assisted by the Focus Ireland Limerick Youth Housing initiative, and they housed me for over a year. Focus Ireland made a huge difference to my life, and in time with their backing I was able to access Local Authority housing. The PETE educational support as provided by Focus Ireland made a huge difference too.
“When I went into Focus Ireland, I was greeted by another human being. There was a sense of belonging inside. (They said) we have plans for you. Keep doing what you have to do. Keep turning up. Keep working.”
Mr. Spillane highlighted the financial and human cost of homelessness as he said: “The financial cost of homelessness is enormous and growing but it is not the most significant cost. The most significant cost is to the people involved and to the fabric of our society.
“The damage done to families and children will not just affect this generation but may have lifelong effects. It must not be allowed to continue.”
“In recent months there has been a decline in the number of private rented/HAP properties on the market and in the number of social houses available. As a result people are finding it increasingly difficult to move out of homelessness. Focus Ireland is calling on the Government to take immediate action on three fronts,” he concluded.