The North West Simon Community is on the brink of closure within months without urgent intervention, the government has been told.
The charity, which supports people facing homelessness, is facing increased pressure due to record client numbers.
Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, has pressed Government to fund the North West Simon Community in the upcoming budget. Addressing the Tánaiste, he warned that the charity could fold before Christmas.
“Is this going to happen on your watch?” Deputy Pringle asked Minister Varadkar.
In July, the charity reported a huge jump in the number of child dependents (22) in emergency accommodation and a record number of people overall (106) in the North West. This is the highest level of official homelessness ever recorded in the region. Thirty-three households were accommodated in Donegal/Leitrim.
More than €300,000 is needed from the Sligo/Leitrim/Donegal local authorities to fund an early intervention and homeless prevention pilot programme.
Deputy Pringle said: “In January 2022, North West Simon Community submitted proposals to provide homeless prevention and outreach services in Donegal, Leitrim, and Sligo to the three local authorities. If accepted and fully funded, the associated income, together with the agreed funding for the RTSS contract in County Donegal, would have put NWSC in a stable financial position for the year.”
The deputy said that two directors and the CEO met with Department officials in July, where officials repeated the standard explanation that the Minister defines policy, the Regional Management Group develops homeless service plans at a local level, and the Department issues the requested funding.
Deputy Pringle said: “On this basis, it was asserted that the Department could see no reason why North West Simon’s homelessness prevention services would not be eligible for funding under Section 10 of the Housing Act 1988, if included in the forthcoming North West Regional Homelessness Action Plan.
“However, when the discussion turned to the specifics of North West Simon Community’s current proposals it was acknowledged that the Department had raised questions about the rationale for a funding proposal submitted by Leitrim County Council.
“The implications of this acknowledgement were quite significant. Firstly, it illustrates that the Department has made a determination on what constitutes acceptable funding for a particular type of service, and secondly the Department very clearly exercises a degree of oversight of the service plans developed by individual local authorities, which far exceeds the arrangements described earlier. This belies the supposed independence of regional homeless forums.
“Again, it was stressed that a funding proposal for such a project could only be considered by the Department if it is submitted by the North West Joint Homeless Consultative Forum’s Management Group.
“However, the immediate obstacle to adopting this approach is that it would require the three local authorities to commit additional funding in excess of €100,000 to the pilot project over three years. The recognition that the local authorities would have great difficulty allocating these additional funds is one of the key reasons for North West Simon developing the pilot project in the first instance.
“The need for this service has never been greater, Tánaiste,” the deputy said.
Deputy Pringle said: “It is imperative that the Department funds the much-needed development of the North West Simon service to ensure that homelessness is battled in all areas of the country.”