Increase in homelessness figures in Westmeath

Midlands Simon Community have seen an increase of 42 per cent in Westmeath presenting to their homeless services in 2014.

Until the end of November, Midlands Simon had worked with 217 people who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless in Westmeath. With such a large increase in demand, coupled with cuts of 12.27 per cent in funding, Midlands Simon Community is at breaking point.

CEO of Midlands Simon Tony O’Riordan says that while the challenges facing the organisation are tough throughout the year, “keeping spirits up this time of year just gets tougher”.

“Our Regional Settlement Service, which supported 53 cases in 2014, was independently reviewed and it was found that the proportion of Midlands Simon Community’s service users accessing independent living is at least 10 times the national average, while the proportion of referrals retaining and maintaining their tenancies at a minimum level of 65 per cent is substantially above the national average,” Mr O’Riordan explained.

“Despite the great work done to be as cost effective and to help as many people as possible with a limited budget, our funding was cut, giving the impression that organisations such as ourselves are punished for great outcomes rather than praised.”

Mr O’Riordan says that there is no community that has no evidence of homelessness.

“Homelessness isn’t just sleeping rough on the streets and in the Midlands especially, homelessness is very well hidden. People who find themselves homeless in rural areas aren’t proud of the situation. But they need local support.”

Midlands Simon Community have a strong partnership with Westmeath County Council and the HSE, and the Midlands region is the only region in the State where there is an inter-agency homeless action team meeting regularly to co-ordinate a response.

“Westmeath Homeless Action Team led by Westmeath County Council is a perfect example of what can be achieved when agencies pool their scarce resources and this couldn’t have been achieved without the leadership of the local authority,” said Mr O’Riordan.

You can support Midlands Simon Community this Christmas by texting SIMON to 50300 to donate €4.

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