Wednesday, August 13, 2014

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MORE THAN 100 individuals and families have presented themselves as homeless to Laois Co Council so far this year.

The figure was described as a three-fold increase by the council’s senior social worker.

In total, 101 presentations have been made this year, the majority being single people. The figure has put increased demand on strained resources.

Funding for homeless services in the midlands is well below urban areas and is only 1.5% of the Department of the Environment’s total homeless budget.

Issues of addiction and mental health are prevalent among those presenting themselves, but another emerging issue has been the reduction of rent supplement ceilings.

Senior social worker Fionnuala Daly explained the rent supplement is now €340 a month for a single person, making it nearly impossible to secure accommodation.

Landlords can make an additional €100 or €200 on the open market.

But Ms Daly said she was satisfied that people were not slipping through the cracks and those who were presented were being assisted. To her knowledge, no-one was unwillingly sleeping rough in Laois.

The Laois Homeless Action Team meets fortnightly to deal with cases and is an inter-agency group, including representatives from the departments of Social Protection and Justice, HSE, Midlands Simon and Laois Co Council. Those deemed homeless are always provided for by the council, either by hostel accommodation or B&B accommodation. They receive a deposit or accommodation from the council’s own housing stock.

Solutions are not always easy to come by. “If a family have children in school, it doesn’t work to have them in a hostel in Longford,” said Ms Daly.

There is insufficient council housing stock or casual vacancies to meet demand. A family of eight is currently housed in a two-bed apartment in Laois.

A recent report on homelessness in rural areas by the Simon Community recommended that it be prioritised as the “most acute form of social housing need”.

Twenty referrals from Laois have been made to the Regional Settlement Service that Midlands Simon operates in the first six months of the year, already exceeding the total figure for 2013 of 19.

A 2013 independent review of Midlands Simon Regional Settlement Service found that a housing-led approach can have successful results and outcomes for rural homelessness.

The Laois Friends of Simon’s annual church gate collection takes place throughout Laois this weekend, 16-17 August.

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