Junior Minister for the Environment, Paudie Coffey, praised the work of the Midlands Simon Community in addressing homelessness, during his visit to Athlone on Tuesday.
Minister Coffey, who has responsibility for housing, viewed some of the homeless charity’s services in Athlone which will benefit from increased funding announced earlier this year. Tony O’Riordan, CEO of the Midlands Simon Community, said: “I am delighted that Minister Coffey could see at first hand how our services are making a real difference to people who have been affected by homelessness.
“Our Emergency Accommodation Services in both Athlone and Tullamore, for example, strive not only to provide emergency accommodation, but also strive daily to link service users back into their community by supporting them every step of the way to rebuild their lives.”
Mr O’Riordan also outlined that while the Midlands Region still only receives 1.5 per cent of the National Homelessness Budget, the fact that the National Homelessness Budget has been increased from €45million to €55million means that in actual terms the Government has increased the homelessness budget for the region by 22 per cent in 2015.
“This funding increase certainly recognises the need to support a cohort of people with housing and other support needs who are constantly re-presenting to us. It will also help us to put more staff on the ground to provide a wider spread of services. In meeting with Minister Coffey, the Midlands Simon Community outlined the innovative and cost effective model of service delivery called ‘Housing First’ that the organisation is implementing in the region.”
The Midlands Simon Community is to the forefront in the State in trying to implement this model. Earlier this year it became the first service provider in Europe to have its staff trained in the methodologies associated with ‘Housing First,’ and this training was facilitated by lead international expert on homelessness Dr Sam Tsemberis.
Mr O’Riordan also outlined “that additional funding has been secured of €81,000 to pilot this ‘Housing First’ model. This innovation wouldn’t be possible without the lead role played by the local authorities in the region, the HSE and the management committee of the Midlands Regional Joint Consultative Homeless Forum.”
“While the Midlands Simon Community continues to face the challenges of meeting the increasing demand of people who need our services, and in turn raising the funds to meet these needs, this additional income from the Government is extremely welcome.”