FIGURES released this week show 304 people were homeless in Clare in 2012. The most startling revelation is that Clare had the highest figure per capita in the Mid-West (244) in terms of children affected by homelessness. The remainder of those affected were mostly aged in their 20s.
While Limerick City had more than twice the number of homeless people at 608, just 259 children in the city were directly affected by homelessness. North Tipperary had 217 people on the homeless list, of which 74 were children.
Speaking to The Clare Champion, Jackie Bonfield, manager of the Mid-West Simon Community branch in Limerick, said she was shocked at the Clare homeless statistics for children.
“Clare had the biggest number of children presenting as dependents. That is very scary. It means that the children are the biggest sufferers in the area from homelessness,” she said.
In 2012, there were 160 homeless women in Clare and 144 men. The reasons leading to homelessness included domestic violence (83), a breakdown in independent living arrangements (52) and family disputes (49). Twenty people were evicted from private rented accommodation, while nine of the 304 homeless people had recently returned from overseas.
“Domestic violence was huge in Limerick compared to Clare. Homelessness seems to be affecting a very young age bracket. Across the board, 20 to 29 years is fairly standard. Along with children, they are the largest group of people affected by homelessness in Clare,” Ms Bonfield noted.
She says most homeless people are already known to the social services in the Mid-West.
“What you tend to find is that the people who are presenting to the homeless services are the ones who are within the social services system already. Very few people who are the ‘new homeless’ are presenting to the homeless services. It’s not what they would have done throughout life. They would have had a job, paid the bills and, if something goes wrong, they go back to family and get help. So they never present,” she revealed.
However, some people, who are desperate for council accommodation, occasionally become homeless in an effort to expedite the acquisition of a house. “What we’re finding is that people are starting to present because they can’t get on the housing list unless they present,” Ms Bonfield said.
Alarmingly, the Mid-West Simon Community manager believes the homeless figure is higher than the official statistics indicate.
“As shocking as these statistics are, they by no means reflect the true number of people homeless, or at risk of homelessness, as many do not present to the homeless services and are not counted. But an increase in demand for services at the Mid-West Simon Community, of over 27% in the past 12 months, shows that the hope of ending homelessness by 2016 is becoming an uphill battle, even with the political will of the Government. The two main areas of increase for the services of the Mid-West Simon Community are advice and information on people’s rights in relation to tenancy and mortgage arrears budgeting support,” she stated.
One hundred and nine of the homeless people in Clare were put up in either a hostel or refuge, while 78 lived with family or friends. Ms Bonfield said, however, that living in a hostel has a negative impact upon children.
“If they have to get up and go to school from a hostel or a refuge, that’s not the ideal scenario for them mentally. Bed and breakfast is not suitable either because the parents are getting their breakfast but they can’t eat other meals there. They are spending whatever social welfare money they have on trying to feed their family during the day, before returning to the B&B in the evening,” she said.
Additionally, the 2012 figures reveal that 17 of the 608 homeless in Limerick City were from Clare.
Meanwhile, the Simon Community will hold a Sleep Out Challenge in Kilrush and Ennis on Friday, September 26, in an effort to raise money for homeless services in the region.
The Clare Champion, along with The Limerick Leader and The Tipperary Star are the media partners for the fundraiser.
Clare Champion managing director, John Galvin said this week’s figures starkly illustrate the need for the fundraiser to help people hit by homelessness.
“What is particularly upsetting is the number of children affected by homelessness in Clare and, indeed, throughout the Mid-West region. Any effort made to help families or individuals in this situation must be fully supported.”
The sleep-outs will be held in the grounds of Kilrush GAA Club and in Cusack Park. The Sleep-Out Challenge is asking participants to raise €250 each, by running cake sales, pyjama days or any other novel ideas they may have.
Volunteers will sign up to sleep out from 8pm to 6am. Anybody who wants to support the Mid-West Simon fundraiser can text KEYS to 50300 to donate €4.
All information is available on www.midwestsimon.ie.