More women contacting street services amid ‘tsunami’ of homelessness

Aontú campaigner Sarah Beasley

A CITY homelessness activist says that there is a disturbing rise in the number of women and young girls looking for help because they have no place to go.

And the Emergency Accommodation Manager for Simon Mid West has described the increasing homeless numbers as “a tsunami” while acknowledging the increasing number of women on the streets locally.

Jonathan Shinnors, regional manager for emergency accommodation at the homelessness organisation, says that crack cocaine addiction is playing a huge part in the increasing numbers of women who are homeless – many of whom are turning to sex work to feed their addiction.

This comes as Aontú campaigner Sarah Beasley, who has been providing food, warm drinks, and clothes for rough sleepers and others experiencing homelessness in the city centre for the past three years, expressed huge concern over new trends she has witnessed in the homeless demographic.

“This is a new development and it’s not a good one. For the first time since we started, females seeking our help outnumber males. I am seeing some 20 more females now than this time last year,” Ms Beasley said.

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Mr Shinnors, the Simon emergency accommodation manager, told the Limerick Post that while the organisation’s hostel emergency accommodation deals primarily with single men, “our family hubs are constantly fully occupied. The more emergency beds we provide, the more homeless people are in need of them – it’s a tsunami.”

He said that it is common knowledge among homeless services that the number of single women becoming homeless is increasing.

“There are a lot of factors, relationship breakup is one of them but the part played by addiction and the increase in crack cocaine use is a big part,” he says.

“That habit has to be fed so women are on the streets, homeless and tapping, and often becoming sex workers to fund it.”

Also a player in the increasing levels of homelessness is a dwindling lack of private rented accommodation.

Recent property reports say that landlords are leaving the market in droves, with six in 10 new houses that come on the market in Limerick City being properties landlords are getting out of.

Another factor in the mix is that many of the multi-national companies in the Mid West are having to block-lease housing developments to be able to attract staff, with some leasing as far away as Kerry and Galway.

Ms Beasley said there are currently almost 6,000 people on local authority waiting lists in Limerick, extrapolated from the National Oversight and Audit Commission, and over 1,300 households in need of housing in Clare.

“This is especially frustrating given the at least 3,000 empty houses are sitting vacant across the country. In Limerick alone, there are over 200 vacant houses – whilst nearly 6,000 are on a waiting list for a home”.

According to official figures from the Department of Housing, which cover November, homelessness in the Mid West is up, with 24 more adults homeless in the region than there were in October.

The figures show there were 430 adults experiencing homelessness in the region in November, 246 men and 184 women.

In October 406 people were reported as experiencing homelessness, 233 men and 173 women.