Homeless organisation helped 1,000+ kids in 2018

  • Deborah Condon

A voluntary organisation that works with homeless people supported over 1,000 children who were homeless or at risk of homelessness in 2018, an increase of 40% on 2017's figure.

Novas is a voluntary organisation and approved housing body that works with families and single adults who are disadvantaged and socially excluded - primarily those who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.

Originally established in Limerick city, it now offers services throughout the Munster region and in Dublin.

It has just published its 2018 Annual Report, which shows that for the first time ever, it supported more than 1,000 children in a 12-month period who were homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Some 1,003 children were helped in 2018 compared to 716 in 2017 - a jump of 40%. The vast majority of these children lived outside of Dublin, in Limerick city, north Tipperary, west Cork and Kerry.

The report revealed that last year, Novas supported a total of 4,768 people - a massive jump of 396% since 2010.

It noted that people accessing accommodation services are getting younger and have complex needs related to the dual diagnosis of mental health problems and addiction.

Service users are also spending long periods of time in emergency and temporary accommodation.

According to Novas' head of policy and communications, Una Burns, the number of children and families being supported by the organisation is "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 zero to four years. In the previous Census of 2011, the largest category was 31 to 40 years. This seismic shift is evident in our own returns," she explained.

Ms Burns said that when it comes to homelessness, prevention is key.

"Our Intensive Family Support Service here in Limerick worked with 592 children last year. Approximately 50% of these were at risk of homelessness. It is imperative to do everything possible to prevent these families from becoming homeless by liaising with landlords, seeking alternative accommodation, advocating for social housing and continuing to procure our own properties for families.

"Last year we provided 34 new tenancies, with 93 people living in these homes," she said.

Meanwhile, the report also pointed out that in 2018, Novas became a trauma informed organisation. This means that everyone involved with the organisation is able to recognise and respond to the impact of trauma on mental and physical health.

The decision to take this approach was due to the significant correlation between people who access homeless services and their experience of trauma, both in childhood and adulthood.

Every staff member, from frontline staff and managers to kitchen staff and cleaners, are trained in trauma-informed care.

"Taking a trauma-informed approach to all interactions with our clients increases the likelihood of a person experiencing safety and acceptance in a service and reduces disengagement. It's a cultural shift, changing how we look at things from what's wrong with you? to what happened to you?" Ms Burns explained.

For more information on Novas, click here.

 


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