Layout 1As Christmas approaches, people always think of ‘home’; however, up to 5,000 people in Ireland are homeless. Focus Ireland is working to change this, says ROUGHAN MacNAMARA.

Focus Ireland was established in 1985 and over the years has developed an expertise in delivering supported housing to provide homes for people who were previously homeless or at risk of losing their home.

Between 2005 and 2008 Focus Ireland doubled its housing stock and is now one of the largest housing associations in Ireland, providing supported homes for up to 650 households across Dublin, Waterford, Kilkenny, Limerick, Cork and Sligo.

These homes are managed, leased or owned by Focus Ireland. Our current strategy, running from 2011-2016 and called ‘Holding on to a place to call home’, places an increased emphasis on expanding our support services to prevent people becoming homeless. It also commits us to deliver at least another 300 supported homes to people who need our ongoing support to sustain living independently in the community.

Our work reflects both our own vision and the Government’s 2008-2013 National Homeless Strategy, which is labelled ‘Pathway to Home’.

Unfortunately, the Government strategy has stalled since 2008 with the onset of the recession and collapse of the property market. Ending long-term homelessness was meant to be achieved by the end of 2010; however, it was not, as successive governments failed to deliver the housing required.

Thousands trapped in homelessness

It is scandalous that every year Focus Ireland has had to highlight to government that thousands are trapped as homeless even though there are plenty of empty houses in the country. It’s easy for some to accept the rhetoric of austerity – that it is not possible to solve social issues such as homelessness at this time. However, we firmly believe that even in the current recession, it is possible to deliver homes to end long-term homelessness in Ireland and save the State money if more positive, co-ordinated action is taken. Focus Ireland continues to work in partnership with government to try to maximise access to housing through existing schemes, and we will continue to develop new initiatives to deliver housing in a challenging environment. Meanwhile, our support services benefited nearly 7,500 people last year – up from 6,500 in 2010. The rise in demand for support continued this year as more people are at risk of losing their homes.

We need your support

Focus Ireland has to raise up to one-third of our annual budget to keep these services running. We rely on the great support of the public and also of the business community. Indeed, the Young Surveyors generously raised €1,500 for Focus Ireland recently, and this type of support is vital to help us cope with the rising demand for our services.

People can also support our work at this time of year by buying our Christmas cards, or making a donation by phoning 1850 204 205, or online at www.focusireland.ie.

Even a small donation makes a massive difference as it all adds up to help us in our work to prevent people from losing their homes and help many others to move on from homelessness. You can also help by volunteering – this can include volunteering specialist skills. Indeed professionals across many  areas – including the property sector – have volunteered their time on specific projects. Interested parties can contact Sara Barnes at sbarnes@focusireland.ie for more information.

Roughan Mac NamaraRoughan MacNamara
Roughan is Advocacy Manager with Focus Ireland.