#RealityCheck: What recovery for Limerick's vulnerable?

Richard Chambers spends some time in the Treaty City

What is the reality when it comes to housing and homelessness in the Treaty City?

Limerick is home to two senior Government Ministers but also some of the most deprieved areas in the country and some of the most acute housing issues.

I went Mid-West to spend some time in the area and find out exactly what's going on.

What's the housing issue like in Limerick? 

It’s a huge issue and it’s a growing concern.

When Jan O’Sullivan spoke at Labour’s housing launch in Limerick City yesterday, location wasn’t chosen for no reason.

They were promoting the Lord Edward Street development, 82 homes, but the reality is there’s a huge shortage right now. And that’s taking a very serious human toll.

I met John - a man from the city - who’s suffered long-term homelessness and he feels Limerick’s problem is being grossly overlooked.

What's the situation regarding housing in the city?

It’s a challenging situation. Schemes like the regeneration project in Limerick mean that a lot of social houses were being knocked at a time when demand was rising. That, coupled with a dwindling number of available properties to rent anyway, has really opened a wound in the market.

A couple of quick statistics on the scale of that problem.

Daft.ie’s survey last month - 12.4% jump in rents in Limerick City across 2015.

Figures supplied in a FOI request by Fianna Fáil’s Willie O’Dea last month showed just seven cases in the city in 2015 where flexibility in the rent cap was shown - compared to 235 in Cork; 5781 across the country. Bottom five in the country for rent cap increases.

Tracey Reddy and Jackie Bonfield are the Housing Support Team Leader and General Manager at Simon Mid-West respectively.

They spelled out how difficult the situation is, using their latest figures on this day last week.

What are the social impacts of that strain?

One of the most acute areas where that’s being felt is in Moyross. It’s an area that has been neglected for so long but was at the centre of the regeneration programme for Limerick City.

Fr Tony O’Riordain is the Parish Priest and the Director of the Board of Management at Corpus Christi Primary School in Moyross.

He came to the headlines back in 2014 after appealing to churches around Ireland to sell-off their old gold to save a teaching post in the school.

He told me about the toll the changes the area has been put through are taking on its pupils.

What success has there been for charities and volunteers?

There have been, it wouldn’t be accurate or fair to say there haven’t been successes with jobs or tackling homelessness but with regards to the latter, a lot of that is driven by NGOs and individual fundraising.

One fundraiser in particular who caught my eye is an 18-year-old Leaving Cert Student at St John The Baptist Community School.

His name is Cian O’Grady and while he, and others, are raising money to try to support vital services - he feels the problem is being ignored in Limerick.

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