Midlands Simon Community may be one of the best performing homelessness services in the country but there was no good news when the housing minister Jan O’Sullivan attended their conference recently.
While the Minister was complimentary of their progressive approach to settling homeless people, and their efficiency in managing their budget, she gave no promises that she will increase their funding.
She acknowledged that Midlands Simon is implementing the modern, recommended approach to homelessness by providing housing first and then arranging other supports for addiction, illness, and other issues.
Since it was founded in 2006, Midlands Simon has resettled more than 500 people, with one of the highest rates of resettling in the country.
It is also the country’s most cost-efficient agency, but Midlands Simon’s chairman Cormac Lally told the Minister that reductions in funding are making their work more difficult than ever before.
He asked for some indication from her that organisations like Midlands Simon will be rewarded for their efficiency, however the Minister’s response was vague.
“We need to assess the results that people get and the way in which they operate,” she told the Advertiser, adding that it’s important to reassess how funding is awarded to agencies.
“Certainly Simon have shown that they use their funding extremely well and I intend to stay engaged with them and examine how we allocate the funding for the future,” she said.
Midlands Simon is particularly good at its job, she said, adding that she has seen their projects at work and has spoken to people who benefit from the service.
“Certainly they are doing the right thing, and they have a lot to teach to others who are to some extent doing the right thing but maybe not as much,” she said.
After the Minister left, Jarlath Coady, a front-line worker with Midlands Simon in Athlone said that while the reduction in funding may seem minimal to some experts, it actually has a significant impact on how services are delivered.
“If you’re as efficient as you can be, then any cuts impact on best practice and on service provision,” he explained.
There was a cut of around 12 per cent to homeless services in the Midlands whereas Cork’s budget was cut by just 7 per cent, said Niamh Randall of the Simon Community.
However, extra cuts at HSE level and to other support services mean the cuts to homeless service provision are much greater than people realise, she said.
Dr Eoin O’Sullivan from Trinity College, who said the housing-led approach is the only way homelessness will be eradicated by 2016, agreed that cuts have not been applied equally around the country, and said the cuts to the Midlands are disproportionate.