11,397 adults and children will spend this Christmas in emergency accommodation in Ireland, with thousands more facing their first Christmas in hotels, tented accommodation and Direct Provision centres across the country.
David Carroll, Chief Executive of Depaul who launched the urgent public appeal says that there are now waiting lists for the charity’s accommodation services and services are inundated with calls from members of the public concerned about accessing food banks and other basic supports as the cost of living crisis continues.
“To be in a situation where we’re helping families and individuals source food from a food bank is not something we should be proud of as a society. A homeless shelter, a tent or a hotel is not somewhere that people should be spending Christmas.”
Mr. Carroll says that ‘a generation lost in homelessness’ has emerged as more care leavers are entering homelessness and more referrals are being made to their homeless services through Tusla and Aftercare services.
“What we are seeing now is a generation lost in homelessness. People, especially young people leaving care, are entering the homeless system and becoming trapped. If we don’t take radical steps now, more damage will be done.”
“Why should a young person coming out of care go into homeless accommodation? We need a planned approach to sustain the long term futures of care leavers and those leaving the youth justice system.Emergency accommodation shouldn’t be a natural stepping stone for people coming out of care or other institutional settings. Depaul will play a key role in the delivery of the Youth Homlessness Strategy by having a specific focus on preventing young people from entering homlessness and if they do require temporary accommodation, supporting them to find long term accommodation as soon as possible.”
The charity says that there is a waiting list for their youth focused homeless service and that less people are moving on compared to this time last year because of a lack of available and affordable accommodation.
Mr Carroll said: “This year we have had 40% less move ons than last year and there is currently a waiting list for this particular accommodation service. Peter’s Place was originally set up as a temporary support accommodation centre for young people exiting homelessness but many are staying longer now because of a lack of accessible rental accommodation and social housing.”
Adding: “Preventative approaches have never been as important as homeless figures reach this new record. Day to day, we see the consequences of what happens if we don’t intervene early enough.”
“The longer people are in homelessness, the more problems arise for them. If we have young people growing roots in homelessness, we are creating more problems.”
“On top of this, there is an unrecorded number of people currently experiencing hidden homelessness this Christmas , yet to present to homeless services and unable to secure long-term accommodation.”
“Young people are being denied a decent start in life and, of all the age groups, they are the most vulnerable and least aware of their rights and responsibilities.Depaul believes young people deserve every chance to achieve their potential and we remain committed to addressing this issue as we work to end youth homelessness on a national scale, to give vulnerable young people a chance.
Amy Lee (25) who helped Depaul launch its Christmas Appeal and has been homeless for three years admits feeling ‘lost’ and ‘trapped’. She has been accessing Depaul’s Peter’s Place service for almost a year and a half.
“My story is similar to so many young people in homelessness, there was a relationship breakdown with my family and I have been on the social housing waiting list for three years now. I feel lost and trapped in homelessness and have no idea how much longer I will be here.”
“It’s difficult enough being homeless but I am deaf as well so it’s even more challenging for me. I struggle to communicate and not many people outside the deaf community can sign.”
“All I want is a home of my own this Christmas so I can start planning my future. My life is on hold at the moment and I can’t see a way out.”
Depaul is working hard to support people like Amy-Lee who are homeless and relies on public donations to support people out of homelessness and prevent vulnerable people from entering homelessness.
Mr. Carroll said: “We cannot give up hope for the many people like Amy Lee we are working with, we simply cannot do this.”
“Many people who are homeless have no families and have experienced significant trauma in their lives. A person who is homeless often feels written off when there seems to be no hope. They feel invisible to others, especially at Christmas – one told us that they felt like a ghost”
Depaul currently supports men, women and children across its 37 accommodation services across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
“Any donation will help us to directly support people like Amy Lee to get out of homelessness. It will also help prevent other families and individuals from becoming homeless in the first place. People can donate to Depaul’s urgent Christmas Appeal at www.depaul.ie or by calling 014537111.”