Donations from the public to the Dublin Simon Community (DSC) last year dropped by more than €500,000, or by almost 40 per cent, as homelessness increased across the capital.
The organisation confirmed this week that there are about 1,000 people in emergency accommodation in Dublin each night, and last year DSC provided 169 beds per night – an increase of 27.5 per cent on 2009.
Figures contained in Dublin Simon Community’s annual accounts show that donations from the public last year dropped from €1.39 million to €863,246 – a drop of €532,878, or 38 per cent, in 12 months.
“Pressure is constant, due to the ill health, vulnerability, access to accommodation and limited options for people who find themselves homeless.”
The figures also show that income from the Simon Community’s church-gate collections dropped by more than half from €91,680 to €41,022. This was partly offset by a slight increase in income from €2.11 million to €2.15 million generated by fundraising events and other sources.
A spokeswoman for the Dublin Simon Community, Lorna Cronnelly, said this week that “emergency accommodation is stretched, as we are currently witnessing increased presentations to our services. Numbers accessing the night bus – from which people are placed in emergency accommodation – have increased, as have the numbers of sleeping bags given out on a daily basis by the night bus, Dublin Simon rough sleeper team, and the soup run.”
On the numbers of Dublin homeless, she said, “The last rough sleeper count figure, from a count that took place last March, found 59 people bedded down sleeping rough. We view this figure as an absolute minimum number in relation to people sleeping rough in Dublin on any given night, as it does not include people in squats, couch surfing, sleeping in parks and so on.”
Dublin Simon Community has been in operation for the past 42 years, and the overall spend on the range of services it provides was down by more than €1 million last year, from €10.3 million to €9.1 million.
On the drop in public donations, Cronnelly said “in the last year we have witnessed a decrease in the number of people donating. However, our biggest hit has been the drop in the average amount that people are now donating.
“While we are extremely aware of the heightened financial pressures faced by the public today, we would urge those who are still in a position to assist organisations such as Dublin Simon to please continue to do so. Without their support, the future of our services and, more importantly, the future for those that we work with is very bleak indeed.”
Exacerbating the financial difficulties faced by Dublin Simon, the organisation last year sustained a €672,000 cut in its Dublin City Council grant and a cut of €153,000 in its HSE funding.
The combination of the decrease in donations and income from State agencies resulted in Dublin Simon’s income dropping by €1.1 million, from €10.3 million to €9.1 million, last year.
On the cuts from State agencies, Cronnelly said “in the present economic crisis we understand that such cuts are a fact of life, and are to be expected.
“The cloth is cut to suit the measure, so they say. However, we are concerned that the cloth being cut is not always appropriate or sufficient in size to protect the most vulnerable in our society, and it is our role to urge statutory bodies to remember those who are suffering most from unwanted cuts to the homeless sector.”
On the level of funding this year from State agencies, Cronnelly said that “negotiation is ongoing in relation to final funding for this year. We are aware that there will be further cuts this year and in 2012 – the extent of which we are not sure yet. It does make it extremely challenging in the delivery of services as we work on a daily basis with all those turning to Simon for help.”
Cronnelly said there is more pressure on the Simon Community’s services than ever. “Pressure is constant, due to the ill health, vulnerability, access to accommodation and limited options for people who find themselves homeless.”
The drop in income resulted in salaries being frozen at Dublin Simon in 2010. Last year the organisation paid out €6 million to its 124 staff.
“Our wage costs have been reduced and all salaries have been frozen,” said Cronnelly. “Last year we made a payroll reduction of €402,000, which was achieved by decreasing staff numbers and other internal payroll savings. Despite these savings we have managed to increase the number and the quality of the services provided.”
Asked if Dublin Simon Community’s income is up or down on last year, Cronnelly said the organisation is “working very hard to hold the status quo. The next four months are the most important for us in terms of fundraising, events and donations, so we would plead with the public, when and where possible, to continue to help and support us.”
(source: Irish Times)