Jack Quann
Jack Quann

11.11 31 Jul 2020


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A housing and homeless agency says one aspect of the coronavirus pandemic is that it has kept homeless figures low.

Focus Ireland says it has seen a steady decline in the last four months in homeless numbers.

However Ger Spillane, the agency's southwest regional services manager, told Pat Kenny that is coming from a very high base of over 10,000.

"So the numbers currently, nationally, are a little over 8,000.

"While we do welcome the reduction in the number of homelessness, it is as I say at a very high level.

"I suppose we want to take the opportunity that the crisis has presented in order to keep those figures on the decrease."

"At the very outset of this pandemic we were concerned that we would have a lot of multi-unit projects where people are staying.

"And we were afraid or there was a fear around that if the virus got in there that it would spread like wildfire.

"I suppose at the very start we initiated the HSE protocols in terms of social distancing and hand washing and so forth.

"Our staff would be very used to dealing with crisis and crisis management, and would have a lot of experience and training in terms of dealing with infectious diseases and how best to mitigate the effects of those.

"At the initial phase while we did have a fear that would happen, it has transpired that it hasn't - and that is down to the cooperation and, to use the Irish phrase, a metal between ourselves and the client group we work with, other homeless agencies and our statutory partners".

"One of the learnings or the lessons that we've got from the pandemic is that you can manage the pandemic - it has quite a dystopian kind of feel to it - but you can manage it when people have their own front door and when they can be isolated.

"Our biggest concern was people living in emergency accommodation, living in communal areas - and the client group we work with, a lot would have poor mental health and physical health and would be immuno-compromised.

"The fact that we run a lot of projects where people have their own front door we were able to isolate, we were able to provide support, we were able to provide food and we were able to mitigate in the event of anything happening.

"But it is a concern, and we spent a lot of time working with the local authorities and with the HSE and Tusla in terms of speeding up the access to accommodation.

"So even despite the lockdown and despite the pandemic, Focus Ireland were able to house over 500 people, households during that period - which is a significant number.

"The COVID was a crisis on top of a crisis, but I think that there's a lot of good work being done.... in dealing with the consequences of the virus and of dealing with homelessness.

"Going forward, we want to continue that momentum".

"In the absence of a vaccine, we can only mitigate the consequences of the virus".

In relation to evictions going forward, he said: "Our concern is that once the new legislation that's coming in, or the extension of the legislation, is that once the pandemic eases or once we've got control of the situation, is there going to be a flood of homelessness again once evictions start?".

Coronavirus presents 'opportunity' to keep homeless figures down

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Main image by planet_fox from Pixabay 

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