A man sleeping on the street in Naas recently
There are 21 emergency accommodation beds in the Peter McVerry hostel in Newbridge, but they are all full.
As winter fast approaches, fewer than 100 properties are available to rent in County Kildare, and most are financially out of reach for those struggling to keep their heads above water.
That is the stark reality outlined recently by Francis Doherty of the Peter McVerry Trust.
“Kildare is very difficult because there are so few rental properties available. We don’t have any social housing to move them into to free up beds. That’s a huge factor in terms of people accessing the service,” he said.
Mr Doherty explained how the Trust has seen the same mix of people accessing its services as you would see in other counties — people of different ages, from different backgrounds. some with alcohol and drug dependence issues, some dealing with mental health issues, as well as the recession generation, who have been hit financially.
He pointed out many people don’t have transport and often need access to medical services, which means they have to live near urban centres.
One of the latest campaigns launched by the Trust is to target vacant buildings that could be used for accommodation.
Mr Doherty highlighted the Repair and Leasing Scheme, where a €40,000 government grant is available to repair an empty property.
The Trust looked at vacant houses across Kildare, particularly in the Athy area, having recently opened up the family hub there for emergency accommodation.
“We are looking at securing two to three units in seven towns including Athy, Leixlip, Naas, Leixlip and Monasterervin. We don't want to put a large number of people with high dependency needs in one spot,” said Mr Doherty.
The Trust would like to expand the services in Kildare and is working with Kildare County Council.
“Given the way the homeless picture is looking it’s going to be a very difficult winter for a lot of people,” he added.
The Trust identified 90 vacant properties in Athy. Ten units were signaled out and the Trust met with the owners.
“They were in various states of disrepair. Some needed a major facelift while others just needed a facelift to bring them up to the proper rental stands.
“If you look at the main street in any town, there is vacant space over a lot of the stores on the upper floors,” he added.
“There is probably more scope in Kildare, as it seems there are a lot of properties in some of the town centres left idle, especially after the recession.
“The fact is that we have a shortage of housing and the council needs to start building social and affordable housing and we hope that we can build houses ourselves in partnership with the council on a very small scale, in say 10 apartments.”
Mr Doherty urged any property owner with an empty premises anywhere in Kildare, to get in touch with the Trust.
“There is a grant of €40,000 and then they get a rental contract which goes straight to the landlords bank account. It’s very attractive.”