A leading agency working with people experiencing homelessness has said it expects the crisis to get worse as Christmas approaches. Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI) has predicted a “surge” in demand for vital services warning that it has already seen an increased demand on last year in recent months.
“We do our best, but we do know there is going to be an upsurge in terms of extreme weather,” MQI chief executive Paula Byrne told The Irish Catholic this week.
The warning comes as winter temperatures continue to worsen and Ms Byrne said the agency has put contingency plans in place to deal with the increased demand.
“It’s really a case of everybody in the organisation trying to cover shifts so we can bring as many people indoors as possible,” she said. The charity has already noted an increase in demand in the region of 5% in September and October compared to the same months last year.
Latest figures from the Department of Housing reveal that some 9,698 people are now homeless across the State – 68% of them in Dublin.
However, MQI has insisted these figures do not accurately portray the extent of the crisis as people who are sleeping rough, in domestic violence shelters and those who stay in the charity’s night café are not included in that figure. Last year in December, 425 clients availed of the night café.
Regarding the demand for MQI throughout the year Ms Byrne said that “the figures have been consistent over the summer, certainly in the emergency shelter at night, they’ve consistently been between 40 and 50 for the summer months, and we would assume that they might drop but we didn’t see any reduction in numbers.”
She said the run up to Christmas can be particularly difficult for people experiencing homelessness. “I think you see the impact of Christmas starting to hit people that are homeless now.
“Some people will go home and engage with their families but it obviously brings feelings of loneliness, the lack of family and other issues that some of our clients have to deal with,” according to Ms Byrne.