The number of people accessing emergency, housing and support services from the Simon Communities of Ireland jumped significantly between 2015 and 2017, and 2018's figures look set to be even worse, the organisation has said.
It has just launched its Annual Report 2017, which shows a 60% increase in the number of people turning to its services between 2015 and 2017.
Last year alone, local Simon Communities worked with 13,304 people. This included 2,006 families with 3,796 children.
Some 968 people accessed emergency accommodation services last year, including rough sleeper teams, drop-in centres and foodbanks. Meanwhile, 2,740 people accessed specialist treatment and support services, such as drug and/or alcohol treatment services.
There were 4,000 needle exchange contacts and 665 contacts were made with Simon's mobile health unit.
However, the organisation noted that the figures suggest that 2018 has been an even busier period.
Some 1,218 people accessed its emergency accommodation service between January and June of 2018, compared to a total of 968 people for the whole of 2017.
Furthermore, between January and June 2018, the organisation had already worked with 3,150 families compared to 2,006 for the whole of 2017.
According to Simon spokesperson, Niamh Randall, things are getting worse every year.
"Simon Communities around the country are tirelessly working to provide emergency services, healthcare, housing and housing support to the ever growing number of people who are relying on their help. However, the scale of the problem means that at least 81,000 men, women and children will face Christmas this year without a secure place they can call home, and are looking to 2019 with increasing despair," she commented.
She emphasised that there is ‘nowhere for people to go once they end up in emergency accommodation'.
"The private rental sector cannot provide the homes that are needed, particularly in the absence of the level of social housing required. For the many thousands of people who are homeless or living in fear of losing their home, this is traumatic and stressful. We must never accept people living with such fear and uncertainty as normal," she insisted.
Ms Randall said that it is time that the Government recognised that the private sector alone cannot deliver the housing that people require.
"The Government must move away from private sector reliance and the acceptance that housing is a commodity rather than a home. We need the State, in conjunction with local authorities and approved housing bodies, to build social and affordable housing across all tenure types quickly within sustainable communities nationwide," she stated.
She added that housing is a basic human need and it should be recognised as a fundamental human right in the Irish Constitution.
"Housing facilitates the enjoyment of so many other rights including health, education, employment, privacy and family life...Without shelter, safety and security, it is almost impossible to function, to participate in society and to get involved in your community."
The Annual Report 2017 can be viewed here. For more information on the Simon Communities of Ireland, click here
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