FREEZING temperatures saw a sharp rise in the number of homeless people availing of the temporary accommodation provided by Novas Initiatives in Limerick, with many sleeping on couches in communal areas to avoid the cold.
During particularly cold spells, Novas Initiatives implements a policy that no one is refused entry to their centres, even if all beds are full, or if clients have previously been removed or excluded from their accommodation.
Novas said while this service puts an additional strain on already stretched services, it is â€œsaving livesâ€.
â€œCold weather snaps like the one we are currently experiencing, place enormous pressure on our homeless services around the country. Two of our Limerick services, Brother Russell House and McGarry House, and Arlington Lodge in Kerry, saw their numbers exceed capacity over the last seven nights with the overflow clients couch-surfing on the sofas in the communal living areas.â€
Br Russell House has room for 26 homeless men, while 30 single homeless men and women are cared for in McGarry House.
Eugene Toner, project manager of Brother Russell, said there is a critical need for these services to prevent fatalities on the streets of Limerick.
â€œNo homeless person has died on the streets of Limerick due to adverse weather since Novas Initiativesâ€™ inception in the city in 2002. Prior to this, there was one or two deaths every winter,â€ he said.
Novas Initiativesâ€™ staff would encourage anybody sleeping rough in Limerick, Kerry or Dublin over the coming nights to avail of their facilities.
They also run an outreach programme on the streets of Limerick city every evening from 7pm to 9pm, outside the former Fergusonâ€™s chemists at the corner of Oâ€™Connell Street and Thomas Street, for anybody in need of a hot meal.
The soup run was extended to a seven-night service, following financial assistance from Wicklow businessman Richard Mulcahy, who starred in The Secret Millionaire programme.
Funded by the HSE and the Department of Environment, Novas works with families, single people and unaccompanied minors who are disadvantaged or socially excluded.