It is with great sadness that I write this after hearing of the awful tragedy that a man sleeping rough has died. A life lost far too early.
It is terrible someone was found dead in dreadful circumstances right in front of Dail Eireann.
Both my own and Focus Ireland’s deepest condolences go out to this man’s family and friends. May he rest in peace.
We do not comment specifically on such tragedies as there must be time to grieve. There must be privacy and respect.
Rough-sleeping is getting worse. The numbers of people sleeping rough are rising.
Latest figures show a 20% rise in the numbers sleeping rough in Dublin since last year.
Staff from Focus Ireland’s street outreach team (Run in partnership with Peter McVerry Trust ) are on the streets seven nights a week. They help get people off the streets into emergency accommodation.
This is difficult as the emergency system is struggling to cope. There are not enough beds and not enough suitable supports in place for people. Some people sleeping rough do not want to go in to hostels as they may not feel safe there. Or it may be they have needs that are not being met.
Many people sleeping rough need very specific supports. Some get this but not enough is being done. The long-term answer is not just more emergency beds but it is in providing more homes. Action is needed to keep people in their existing homes.
Many people sleeping rough have been failed by the State. Sometimes failed years in the past. They never got the support needed at the time to heal or the chance to live independently.
We must work harder to prevent homelessness and make sure people who are leaving state care, leaving hospitals and other State institutions are never discharged into homelessness.
As a society we have a duty to ensure people have a home. One where they have the support they need to deal with problems they may be struggling with.
We know this approach works as Focus Ireland is doing this in many cases through our own work and in partnership with other organisations.
Our Street Outreach team works hard and does get people in off the streets and back into a home. There are success stories. These are great to see as it’s important to show people can be supported to find a home.
However, despite all the good work by Focus Ireland the situation is continuing to deteriorate as there is a critical shortage of affordable accommodation. We supported over 10,000 people last year who were homeless or at risk of losing their home.
I have never seen anything like it in my 30 years of working with homeless people. A shocking total of 800 children and their families became homeless so far this year.
Many families and people who become homeless lost their home in the private rented sector due to rising rents. The government has the power to prevent more people becoming homeless. The State has taken some action to help some families, which is welcome, but it’s clearly not enough.
More needs to be done.
Many people who are homeless – especially those sleeping rough – have complex problems. They are broken, often struggling personally and suffering.
They need our support. The first part of this must be taking the immediate actions required to prevent more people from becoming homeless tomorrow.
~ Life President & Founder, Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy.