Novas Initiatives opened its first service in Ireland in 2002 in response to the needs of homeless people in Limerick City. Since then, the charity has grown considerably, with at least one new service being added each year. Our facilities are largely based in the Munster region, with two bespoke services in Dublin – one exclusively for homeless women and the other for unaccompanied minors.
We are now one of the main providers of services to adults who are homeless in Ireland. We primarily operate low threshold facilities, implementing a harm reduction model.
Our range of services aim to provide a continuum of care including various linked accommodation and support options, a service which offers intensive support to families at risk of becoming homeless, a designated Out-of-Hours service, a specialised residential disability service for vulnerable young adults and a Respite Centre for families of people with addiction. Our most recent service, Mid-West Community Detox, was opened in June 2012, and receives the highest number of referrals in the country.
Our client groups are among society’s’ most disadvantaged and include many who are not served by mainstream services and are often excluded from existing voluntary agencies.
The routes to being homeless are many and varied. In the past 15 years, people are becoming homeless at a younger age and the instances of families and women being homeless has increased dramatically. There are many common threads in our clients’ backgrounds including poor education, poor health, unemployment, family breakdown, availability of alcohol and illicit substances and violence.
Many of our clients have been victims of physical and sexual abuse. These clients are at risk of further exploitation due to their circumstances. Many of our older clients were institutionalised as children and we are increasingly aware of the horrors experienced by some of these people as children and adolescents. One of the lasting effects is the high instance of mental health issues prevalent among this group.
A person who has experienced homelessness over a prolonged period will frequently have very basic support needs including accommodation, food, heat, health, hygiene and contact with support services. In addition, clients will have issues with estranged families: parents, children, partners or friends. Consequently, our temporary-supported accommodation services predominantly provide for clients with many needs, including those with high support needs.
We wish for clients to have a voice on all our projects. This includes clients being consulted on changes and developments which will affect them. This occurs through a variety of means including; meetings with management, resident meetings, surveys, questionnaires and newsletters. Some projects include clients on their health and safety committees and, on occasion, on staff interview panels. A client is a current member of the Board and one has previously been Chairperson.