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Spike in homeless calls amid family tensions and job losses

The Good Shepherd Services call on families to stay close

The recent wave of unemployment and increasing family tensions due to the Covid19 crisis are resulting in more calls being made to Kilkenny’s homeless services.

Noel Sherry, CEO of the Good Shepherd Centre in Kilkenny told KCLR that in the last week or so the service has been fielding enquiries from people whose accommodation had been provided with their jobs, which were now both gone, as the impact of the virus starts to bite businesses across Kilkenny.

He said too that tensions were getting high in families that were already feeling pressure and more people were contacting the centre for shelter.

“Some people are just needing a break from problem family members. This crisis is accelerating those issues,” he said.

“Families need to communicate better, to listen better, to work it out where at all possible.”

He said his main concern was the avoidance of rough sleeping, and then the impact of the virus on the hostel service.

The hostel had 20 beds and would increase to 25, while there was short term accommodation for one family and apartment-style accommodation for around 20 individuals or couples.

The service also has four other houses in the community and owned up to 160 properties in Kilkenny, which it rented out to tenants for as low as €35 a week for those on rental supplement and up to €95 for tenants who were working.

Employing 11 staff in the hostel and five relieve staff, Mr Sherry said they were hoping to recruit a further five relief staff.

However, the centre’s 2020 plan to fundraise €100,000 had been “shot in the head”.

“The aftermath of this here will mean we will need more housing,” he said, adding that the service was hoping to acquire a further ten to 30 houses to cope with the demand.

He added that calls for emergency accommodation were often made out of hours and it was common for people to end up at Garda stations or hospitals.

“But now, that can’t happen so we want to avoid these people sleeping rough.”

He said rough sleeping decreased people’s immunity and increased the risk of contamination.

Mr Sherry said that before Covid19, the service users included people dealing with family breakdowns and those with rent arrears, to those suffering with mental health issues and addiction.

“The best place for everyone to be is at home, if possible. But we are still providing a service for those who genuinely need somewhere to live.

“Landlords and employers, we understand that you are stressed. But if you throw these people out, they may become homeless.”

The Good Shepherd Centre had recently managed to find more appropriate accommodation for about 12 people and one family, he said.

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