More than 1,000 children looked for help from Limerick homeless agency

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LIMERICK based national homeless services group, Novas, has reported a 40 per cent increase in children seeking its help last year.

Its annual report launched last Friday revealed that, for the first time ever, it supported more than 1,000 children who were homeless or at risk of homelessness in 2018.

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The number of children supported by the organisation was 1,003, rising from 716 in the previous twelve-month period.

The vast majority of these children lived outside of Dublin; in Limerick city, north Tipperary, west Cork and Kerry.

Novas said it supported 4,768 people last year, representing “a staggering rise of 396 per cent since 2010”.

The report also revealed that people accessing accommodation services are getting younger; have complex needs relating to dual-diagnosis of mental health and addiction, and are spending long periods of time in emergency and temporary accommodation.

Novas Head of Policy and Communications, Una Burns said this was a reflection of the homeless landscape, which has altered drastically in the last four years.

“The 2016 census revealed that the single biggest age category of homeless people in the state was 0 to 4 years. In the previous census of 2011, the largest category was 31 to 40 years.”

“This seismic shift is evident in our own returns,” Ms Burns added.

A preventative measure referred to as an Intensive Family Support Service, based in Limerick, worked with 592 children last year.

Around half of those children were at risk of homelessness.

Last year Novas provided 34 new tenancies, with 93 people living in these homes.

The number of homeless children in Ireland has climbed by more than 100 to 3,778, according to the government’s Homeless Quarterly Progress report from the Department of Housing.

However, the family hub emergency accommodation operated by Novas “is not designed for family life”, according to chairperson Greg Maxwell.

“Our services continue to be client-led – only now, many clients’ needs are significantly different. Young families need a multiple of supports; getting to and from school which is often a long distance away; homework and playtime spaces; access to modern cooking facilities; baby minding and much much more to be family-friendly.”

Moving on families into long-term housing is paramount to easing the crisis,” Mr Maxwell added.

Novas became a certified Trauma-Informed Organisation in 2018, and is also providing help to clients who have had “adverse childhood experiences, and, trauma in adulthood”.

Last year it conducted extensive work in St Mary’s Park in Limerick, considered by the Pobal Deprivation Index as the most deprived area in the country, engaging in collaborative endeavours with Limerick Regeneration and Limerick City and County Council, to reduce involuntarily overcrowding and advocate for house upgrades for the many homes there in disrepair.