An organisation working with homeless people and those at risk of homelessness recorded its busiest year ever in 2017.
Novas works with disadvantaged families and single adults, primarily those who are homeless, are at risk of losing their homes, or who are recovering from addiction. It provides a range of services and accommodation in Limerick, Clare, Tipperary, Cork, Kerry and Dublin.
According to its 2017 Annual Report, which has just been published, it helped 4,572 people last year, an increase of 29% compared to 2016 and a 375% increase since 2010.
The organisation said that last year, demand exceeded capacity in all of its services. For example, in its Tipperary base, just 9% of those referred were able to access accommodation, while in Limerick, this figure stood at 39%.
It noted that the major pressure points related to the increase in single adults who were seeking accommodation, and an increase in the number of families presenting as homeless or at risk of homelessness.
"The reasons people seek support from Novas are complex and multi-faceted, however, the extraordinary rise in recent years can be attributed in large part to the national housing and homeless crisis and the significant dearth in accommodation in our population centres. An over-reliance on the private rented market has resulted in unfettered and unsustainable rent increases that have forced many households into homelessness," the report stated.
The organisation highlighted the number of young people becoming and remaining homeless. Almost one in 10 of its clients were aged between 18 and 21 years, and almost 40% of all clients accessing accommodation were under 30 years of age.
It also worked with 750 children during 2017 - the largest number to date. Some 450 of these were seen in the organisation's Intensive Family Support Service in Limerick, while the remainder used services in Cork, Tipperary and Dublin.
According to Una Burns of Novas, it provides support to families in a number of ways.
"We acquire long-term housing in the community that is tenanted by formerly homeless families. We also advocate for families to landlords, local authorities and other approved housing bodies.
"The support we provide to families living in B&B accommodation helps them maintain a routine and reduce the trauma experienced by children who are homeless. We provide laundry vouchers so families have clean clothes, we have developed a meal programme to ensure families have access to a nutritious evening meal and we also support families with school attendance," she explained.
Meanwhile, according to Novas Chairperson, Greg Maxwell, last year's record demand was unfortunately not surprising.
"In housing and homeless services, it was a typical recent year. Waiting lists got longer and more people were homeless, breaking the previous year's record, like each of the previous five years . The situation, described by many as being the worst in the history of the State, deteriorated.
"The outlook for 2018? Regrettably it looks like more of the same. Indeed even that may be optimistic," he added.
The 2017 Annual Report can be viewed here
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