Novas’ 2018 Annual Report highlights rising number of children supported by the organisation

During 2018, for the first time ever, Novas supported more than 1,000 children who were homeless or at risk of homelessness. The number of children supported by the organisation was 1,003, rising from 716 in the previous twelve-month period, an increase of 40%. The vast majority of these children lived outside of Dublin; in Limerick city, north Tipperary, west Cork and Kerry.

Throughout the year some 4,768 people were supported by Novas, representing a staggering rise of 396% since 2010. The report reveals that people accessing accommodation services are getting younger, have complex needs relating to dual-diagnosis of mental health and addiction and are spending long periods of time in emergency and temporary accommodation.

In terms of the number of children and families supported by Novas, Una Burns, Head of Policy and Communications with the organisation noted that ‘it was a reflection of the homeless landscape, which has altered drastically in the last four years. The 2016 census revealed that the single biggest age category of homeless people in the state was 0 to 4 years. In the previous census of 2011, the largest category was 31 to 40 years. This seismic shift is evident in our own returns.’ Burns illustrated the many ways in which Novas supports families who are homeless or at risk, highlighting the importance of prevention; ‘our Intensive Family Support Service here in Limerick worked with 592 children last year. Approximately 50% of these were at risk of homelessness. It is imperative to do everything possible to prevent these families from becoming homeless by liaising with landlords, seeking alternative accommodation, advocating for social housing and continuing to procure our own properties for families. Last year we provided 34 new tenancies, with 93 people living in these homes.’

She went on to say that the organisation did extensive work in St. Mary’s Park in Limerick, considered by the Pobal Deprivation Index as the most deprived area in the country, outlining their collaborative endeavours with Regeneration and Limerick City and County Council to reduce involuntarily overcrowding and advocate for house upgrades for the many homes there in disrepair. Burns described the ‘multiple traumas experienced by the clients in St. Mary’s Park and how Novas’ Trauma Informed Approach has enhanced outcomes for these people.

In 2018 Novas became a Trauma Informed Organisation. The commitment to pioneer this approach was due to the significant correlation between people who access homeless services and their experience of trauma, both Adverse Childhood Experiences and trauma in adulthood. Every staff member – frontline staff, kitchen staff, cleaners and management – are trained in Trauma Informed Care. Burns describes how ‘taking a trauma informed approach to all interactions with our clients increases the likelihood of a person experiencing safety and acceptance in a service and reduces disengagement. It’s a cultural shift, changing how we look at things from What’s wrong with you?  to What happened to you?’.

The report was officially launched by Cllr. Gerald Mitchell, Deputising for the Mayor of the City and County of Limerick, who acknowledged the important work the organisation does to enhance the lives of people living in the most vulnerable communities in Limerick and nationally. He thanked Novas for introducing innovative programmes such as Trauma Informed Care as well as their ability to co-operate, adapt and grow services to meet the ongoing demand for homeless services and housing.

You can view the full report here.