Monday 13th May 2013
New Threshold Housing Service for Homeless in Cork
An innovative new service aimed at helping people out of homelessness was officially opened in Cork today (13.05.13) by Kathleen Lynch TD, Minister of State for Disability, Equality, Mental Health and Older People.
The Access Housing Unit is a project of Threshold, the national housing charity, which helps homeless people to move into private rented housing. Since it began operating last autumn, it has assisted 38 people to move out of homelessness, the majority of whom had been staying in emergency homeless accommodation. It was established as a response to the growing numbers of people in emergency accommodation and a shortage of local authority housing in Cork, especially for single people.
Diarmaid O’Sullivan, Service Manager with Threshold Cork, said: “It might sound obvious, but the greatest challenge homeless people face is finding a place to live. Homeless people often spend many months, if not years, in hostels and shelters before getting an opportunity to have a place of their own. By working closely with other homeless services and with landlords, Threshold can house people in a matter of months.
“Threshold recognises that someone who has experienced homelessness will need not just housing, but also support to get back on their feet. Our experienced housing staff visit people in their new home to help them with potential pitfalls, such as budgeting, money management, self-care and any other problems that may arise. As a result, our success rate is very high.
“The service also places a strong emphasis on prevention and early intervention. The ultimate aim is to prevent people from actually becoming homeless in the first place. We want to keep people in their homes and we provide them with the support to do just that.”
Cost-Savings for the State
Today’s launch was also addressed by Senator Aideen Hayden, Chairperson of Threshold.
“Preventing homelessness in the first place is obviously the most cost-effective solution for the individual concerned and for the State, and makes sound financial sense,” she said. “It is well recognised that, when someone enters a homeless service, the longer they remain there, the more difficult it is for them to move back into a normal way of life. So ending homelessness not only ends this cycle of misery, but also makes sound economic sense.
“The average cost of maintaining somebody in emergency hostel accommodation in Cork is about €23,000 per annum. The cost of rent supplement for a single person, together with tenancy support through a service such as the Access Housing Unit, is approximately €8,000. This means it is actually €15,000 cheaper to deliver a permanent housing solution.
“More of the homeless budget needs to be diverted away from emergency accommodation and towards the prevention of homelessness and the provision of housing solutions like the Access Housing Unit.”
How the Service Works: A Case Study
Threshold’s Access Housing Unit sources good-quality properties from private landlords, arranges viewings for people in homeless accommodation, and helps them to secure a rent payment under the rent supplement scheme. Once they move in, the Unit provides the supports they need to live independently.
Sean (not his real name) – a recent client of Threshold’s – is one of those who has benefited from the service. He had been staying in a hostel in Cork for a number of months when he was referred to the Access Housing Unit.
“The Access Housing Unit helped me to find a house,” he said. “It gave me a way out. It was my first time homeless; without them, I would not have known who to approach or where to go.
“When I was housed, I was not left and forgotten about; they helped me to get other things done and they still always phone and call up to me.”
The Access Housing Unit also works with individuals and families who may be about to lose their accommodation due to, for example, rent arrears or a family dispute, and provides them with intensive support to prevent them from becoming homeless in the first place – 20 people have been helped by the service in this way to date. Early intervention by the Unit can help keep people in their homes and out of homeless hostels, according to Threshold.
The Access Housing Unit is funded by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and Cork City Council.
Further information is available at: https://www.threshold.ie/accesshousingunit/.