The charity sector thread

What is mos startling is the increase in numbers. Guess that cuts to support services for the homeless are the politically palatable. What is the free market solution here? That they fuck off and die?

This is an interesting interpretation of the story. Firstly in your conflation of homelessness with rough sleeping. There’s a LOT more to it than that.

The 76 are FTE which is not the number of employees. There’s a thousand part time volunteers and twenty full time volunteers.

No and no. Because you don’t understand the difference between employee and FTE and you’re assuming that the only people the work with are rough sleepers. It’s a nifty soundbite but it’s inaccurate and wildly so.

Is prevention better than cure? Usually.

The article doesn’t refer to the myriad projects run by Simon. I’m more familiar with Athlone where the numbers are smaller but there’s a hostel - whoch has some voluntary and some expert paid staff for night shifts. They also run a number of projects around housing vulnerable people and supporting them in that accommodation. And there’s other stuff that the article doesn’t go into re Cork.

The article mentions that some people who are not rough sleepers have their meals, etc, with Simon because they are one rent payment away from losing a roof over their heads.

Of course. I heard that interview. He spoke eloquently. If he’s accurate, it’s a scandal.

But you haven’t shown any over staffing. You’ve drawn a pile of conclusions based on a 400 word story on one aspect of Simon’s work.

Two other things.

We are extraordinarily good in this country at excluding people at various levels, from childhood. And then whingeing about the fact/cost/requirements of improving the situation.

The charity debacles of recent weeks have really highlighted to me how much the State expects people to take on. I wonder if there are other European countries where parents bagpack for school heating, or communities fundraiser for scanners, hospice rooms, domestic violence shelters, for example.

I’m simply glad it’s the season of good will, otherwise I guess the pin knives would be out for Simon and the other charities.

And it’s that very “season of goodwill” that is being cynically exploited by those charities who many suspect are exaggerating the figures and indulging in empire building.
And just for the record… … 68676.html
**SIMON COMMUNITIES OF IRELAND ***Charity dedicated to ending homelessness.
Acting chief executive: Patrick Quinn
**Refused to divulge details of chief executive’s package *on basis that it doesn’t reveal details of individual remunerations

In response orienlair’s comments. Until a number of years ago my job have me a lot of exposure to charities working in the homeless sector and my current job still gives me some exposure. So I have a lot of knowledge of their activities and my view is that a lot of the state spending on the sector simply cannot be justified.

Unlike a lot of people posted here, I am not of the view that no money should be spent on homeless people and they should be left to fend for themselves. Rather I think that the money currently spent on emergency services should be redirected to providing them with long term permanent social housing. But social housing funding has been cut to the bone while spending on homeless charities has been maintained during the bust. This is not a good use of resources and it is driven largely by the media campaigning of the homeless charities and the completely uncritical reception they receive from the media, rather than by the needs of homeless people. It would be a very brave minister who would cut the grant paid to Simon, Focus Ireland etc etc. But for some reason cuts to mainstream public services is greeted by media cheer leading and anyone who attempts to defend spending on mainstream public services is (rightly) asked to justify the level of spending. Until the CRC controversy, charities received completely uncritical treatment from the media.

I should also say that I have no particular issue with the Simon Community. I just took advantage of the profile of Cork Simon in yesterday’s Irish Times, to raise an issue about the funding of homeless charities in general. In Simon’s defence they are one of the homeless charities which don’t have a very restrictive policy on access to their services and take all comers. Other charities in the sector accept state funding and donations but won’t accept people who are drunk, who have dogs or are addicts (in other words most homeless people) into their services.

I am well aware of what an FTE is - it means that there is the equivalent of 76 full time staff working time on Cork Simon’s services. Taking account of people on part time contracts - the actual number of staff is higher. Orienlair suggests that dividing the number of rough sleepers by Simon’s staff numbers is a simplistic measure of their work because they work with lots of other people. Well their website sheds light on their work in this regard. According to this:

  • they accommodate 48 people in their emergency shelter
  • 52 people in their high support housing and
  • 27 people are supported by their housing support team.

If those numbers are added to the total numbers of rough sleepers in Cork it comes to 296 people. Which is still 3.8 clients/potential clients for every full time equivalent staff member Simon employs.

Finally a couple of other points which raise questions about the level of spending on Cork Simon:

  • Simon are not the only homeless service in Cork remember. The St Vincent de Paul provides an extensive service for this population (which is very well run IMO).
  • the expenditure figures quoted in the Irish times don’t take account of the fact that all of the accommodation used by Simon (their hostel, high support housing etc) has already been between 80 and 100% funded by the state (this is the level of grants available for homeless accommodation). So Simon’s spending is almost entirely on staffing and running costs.

When you were on the Cork Simon Website did you notice this message from their board chairman?

I’m not involved with Simon but I was at their Housing First Conferencein Athlone earlier this year for the two main presentations - I had to leave in the afternoon, and it absolutely opened my eyes to how we count homelessness and address homelessness.

Dr Eoin O’Sullivan - whose presentation is unfortunately not on the website because it was fascinating, and Dr Sam Tsemberis came at the idea of Housing First from two different perspectives.

It would be worth looking at the notion of Housing First because you’d see that Simon is going in exactly the way you’d like to see it go.

That’s probably a bald way of encapsulating something that’s a bit more complex and insidious than that.

I don’t know - you’re better read on the subject than I am by far - but is there a way of measuring the cost (or has anyone done it) of leading a middle-class life in a country like Ireland or the UK or USA? My guess is that aspiration is expensive and that those of us who believe we are supporting a community of ‘other’ are in many ways doing the opposite.

In the context of 8c per kilo spuds, Walmart having a food drive for its staff, the US minimum wage wars, the care system, over-regulation in schools and other institutions, lack of meaningful early childhood health and education programmes for the disadvantaged and so on ad nauseum.

Basic income guarantee would go some way towards creating a level playing field - if it was done properly but I don’t see that happening. And I don’t see it dealing properly with those who cannot fend for themselves, as BR says.

The freemarket and capitalism provides hope. Or the illusion of same. I think rolling back the paper would have impacts beyond the practical. A free-market system that finds its own level will still have people at the top living off the inequalities of people at the bottom because the people in the middle need it to be that way. Otherwise what is the point? Of anything?

I heard that Cratchit fellow wanted an afternoon off - I hope you fired him for insolence!

A free market is just a system of voluntary exchange and it is the bedrock of support often provided free gratis to non-profit organisations like the Simon community, St. Vincent de Paul, The Salvation army, and Capuchin Day center.

I’ve already given a specific example of one factor why the numbers of homeless increased this year through the direct actions of government legislation and enforcement that reduced the availability of cheap accommodation and forced more people on the street. Now we have a situation where we have accommodation that meets regulatory standards, there is less of it and it’s more expensive and we are wondering why the specific increase in numbers this year of homeless people? Remember it is unstated government policy to inflate the price of property in this country and this is also seen as a desirable goal for a significant number of voters so more resources are committed to achieving this end at the expense of those on the margins of society.

As put to you quite recently, I think it is a lot more complex than that. As I said I don’t subscribe to the myth that the propensity to barter and trade is any stronger naturally or innately than the propensity towards reciprocity and redistribution (for example). It just depends on the environment one lives in, that is fostered by society. A ‘free market system’ is only one form of economic society, and it is not the only one we are capable of.

I would put it myself like this - Some people are not able to adapt to the particular environment they find themselves in, as well as others. The reason I put it this way is the other way implies a value judgement on the innate humanity and particular gifts bestowed on some people by their maker. - Some people have very little problem with adapting to a role as a small cog in a machine, working for a boss who does not have their best interests at heart, developing a somewhat mercenary outllook, valuing consumer goods and aspiring towards a higher status than their peers, developing certain habits and disciplines, etc. Please don’t get hung up on the implicit criticism of our economic society in that - I am only trying to make a point… Due to failure to adapt, they become alienated from their society. And often that promotes alienation from self. Of course, it can work the other way around, and trauma and abuse causes alienation from self which turns into alienation from society… I am only touching here on some very complex mechanisms. Of course, a single forum post is inadequate to do justice to those mechanisms.

The (partial) myth of scarce resources. What you say is true only so long as they are in proximity to a free market dynamic that usurps the labour and ingenuity and resources of the community so that it becomes unavailable to that community. (I say this based on personal direct experience and observation). There is also a lengthy discussion we could have about the term ‘subsistence living’ and stereotypes perpetuated around that.

As above. Also, you are coming from an ‘individual’ perspective while I am coming from a ‘community’ perspective. Let’s say someone very aged or very young has as you put it, “the inability to cope with life”. You say the market has the solution for that - to alleviate their so called ‘poverty’. Well again, we are at odds over the use of the term poverty. As John Ruskin put it, “the only true wealth is Life”. Think about it.

My understanding of the term productive or unproductive does not rank profit and individual gain above all else. For example, real education in the arts and humanities is a productive use of resources in my eyes because it empowers people to really contribute in significant human ways to our society much later on. While investing resources into Land speculation is an unproductive use of resources because land already has its value for the most part innately. - What it is actually doing is commoditising Rights over land etc.

So in these terms, why do I think universal income would be a highly productive use of resources? (Aside from the fact that it may be viewed in terms of reciprocity and redistribution which is a different economic mentality that I think holds high value as an adjunct to the current paradigm of rational utility maximisation and short term profit etc.)

Recall Mill (paraphrased), “An economy which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes–will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished.”

I.e. Universal income bestows dignity on people - they are no longer slaves to their livelihood and jobs, but may more freely choose, and indeed develop their self when they are called to. It represents having faith into people - that they actually have an strong innate desire and basic need to work at something that really suits them; that they want to contribute to their community and society for reasons other than that they are compelled to. It provides a social safety net that is not tied up with loss of dignity and loss of status in society, and that manages to cut off all worthwhile outlets for one’s productive energies etc. (so that their labour will be available in the labour resource pool when called upon by the system).

We are products of our environment, and the communication that prevails in it. - Universal income is a game changer in terms of that environment. I think the adaptations necessary to thrive in such an environment would indeed be quite different to what they are at present. Actually I am thoroughly convinced that the ‘type’ we currently find homeless for the most part would be better able to adapt in such an environment, and thrive. By thrive I do not mean that they would take their money and lounge around on drugs, which is what I guess some posters on here will take away.

I currently work in homeless services in a very specialised area. There is no doubt that there is too many people overall employed in the sector when you look at the ratio of homeless persons to homeless service workers. The fact is that the market cannot effectively provide housing to reduce homelessness in this city and public policy at government and local authority dictate that the market (ie Private rented, rent allowance tenancies) should provide for the accommodation needs of the majority of homeless persons.

I would estimate about 50% of people living in Homeless facilities I am personally in contact with are assessed as ‘housing ready’, i.e they could adequately sustain a tenancy with the right forms of social supports provided on an adequate basis as they are in certain pilot projects in London and New York. The sticking point is the cost and availabiltiy of accommodation - have a look at how many ads say ‘rent allowance accepted’ in the lettings section on daft.
Also the vast majority of homelss persons are single males.

I would estimate it costs about €500 a week to house a homeless person in temporary accommodation in Dublin. The majority of residents of temporary homeless accommodation don’t need to be there, there is a variety of (fairly obvious) reasons why they cannot access housing on the open market but there is no political will to break the cycle either by rolling out more social housing or amending social welfare and landlord/tenant legislation that could break the cycle.

There will always be a need for temporary accommodation (still referred to as hostels by most laypeople) for certain categories of homeless persons - new presentations, chaotic substance abusers and the mentally unwell. But like I mentioned they are a minority of the overall homelss population.

And yes there are still plenty of ‘down on their luck’ deserving homeless people. I meet them every day. This year alone for example I have met four individuals who are returning migrants (from the US and Canada) previous employed in middle class/white collar professions whose medical needs could not be met when their health insurance lapsed or cover was withdrawn andwhose only need was housing.

Interesting post Tommyt. One question - why don’t the homeless charities come together and start providing some kind of permanent accomodation for their clients? They certainly appear to have plenty of cash income, which as you say, is being inefficiantly spent on temporary measures prolonging the situation for everyone. I would go as far as to say that they might even increase donations from the public if they are providing a more permananent solution.

There are less than 5,000 people who are homeless in Ireland in total, which doesn’t seem a lot, given the amount of publicity and coverage the problem receives especially at this time of the year. If most of them are single males as you say, then all they require is a one bedroom apartment. (If we can go out to South Africa to build houses for people in need why can’t we do it here?)

(Of course my own suspiscion is that homeless charities don’t neccessarily want a permanent solution to the problem as it would bring their own existance into question.)

Good post. 500 quid a week though - can this be not be flipped on its head and used as a basis for a more permanent accomodation ? I see crossing with HiFi same idea.

Holy God, I have rarely heard such a horrendous vision for society. Your dignified people mustn’t be doing much of value if they’re available “when called upon by the system”, which itself sounds like some centralised bureaucratic nightmare. What if they’re called upon to do something that doesn’t suit them? Can they tell the system to “PFO” and just keep sending the cheques? Who pays for the cheques, and who encashes them when everyone fancies themselves as an artist instead of a bank clerk?

I was referring to the current system and how it ensures you cannot work while looking for a new position, and that the reason for that is to have as large a labour pool available to the economy as it grows and contracts etc. The larger this pool, the easier it is for employers to find new labour and pay less for it. Yes, I agree it is a centralised bureaucratic nightmare / vision. So, let’s try and get away from it. Do you really think in a universal income paradigm that everyone would want to be an artist surviving on a subsistence amount? Also if no one wanted to be a bank clerk, then what would such positions pay? Anyway, there is another thread (chock full of similar knee jerk reactions) on this if you look. I was just replying to BR’s post.

It is quite difficult to get the ball rolling from inception to finance to acquisition through to tenanting a housing asociation dwelling. The current model is that the Approved Housing Body (AHB) do all the groundwork but the local authority retains the nomination rights for the tenancies. I won’t deny there is turf protection going on amongst the various charity/third sector bodies and the local authorities but the major fault generally lies in the lack of overall supply and the lack of speed in delivering units. There is also a greater need for one & two bed properties than housing providers will admit to. It’s very frustrating.

There’s a need for the state and local authorities to back innovative models of transitional and permanent housing that can be provided in properties sourced from either the public or private housing stock. I am working on a pilot model at the moment that currently doesn’t have the full support of either the DSP or the local authority due to their innate culture of suspicion regarding anything innovative . As you can imagine it’s a hard slog :imp:

Are you looking at the Housing First model, Tommyt?

Where do you see the over-staffing? If you were trimming fat, where would it be?

Housing First is an admirable concept but can’t work without removing the barriers to entry into the private rented sector for the typical homeless person (i.e the lack of a deposit, no rent upfront, landlords not accepting rent allowance etc.etc. ). I am involved in trying to create a new transitional housing model based on sub-letting from private landlords and fromer (small) institutional properties.

I think overstaffing is not what i meant by my previous comment, more that the current crisis and misreading of the whole sector is actually generating employment in finding solutions rather than working towards reducing homeless numbers by pracical measures.- For example, If a workable strucutral and strategic response to long term homelessness was put in place my own role (Settlement) could and should become redundant and if overall homelss numbers were to reduce there would be less resource hours necessary to be dedicated to key workers, shift attendants etc.

A few of the old canards… I’ve known quite a few junkies and alcoholics over the decades. Most of them were not on the streets. The only OD death was the classic middle class heroin addict. Job etc. If you had talked to one of the upmarket crack dealers back in the 90’s you would have discovered that most of the “home deliveries” were to very upright (and functioning) members of the community. The Mayor of Toronto is the rule, not the exception. The crack ho’ was a crack ho’ because she was a loser.

You have to make a hell of a lot of stupid decisions to end up on the streets. They are not on the streets because they are winos or junkies. They are on the streets because they made lots and lots of stupid decisions. And are still making them.

The same goes for the child abuse excuse. Again most abuse kids do not end up on the streets. They cope and deal with life. Correlation does not imply causality. The same goes for runaways. Bad decisions, bad parenting and teenage impulsiveness start the spiral but it most cases I’ve seen once the reality of life on the street sinks in sanity prevails. For every story of serious parental violence I’ve heard there were five of middle class immaturity and irresponsibility. By both parties.

You could say this is purely down to peoples ability to “cope”. What I’ve found is that main difference between those who cope and those who “dont cope” is that the “copers” dont make excuses and dont feel sorry for themselves. They realize life is not fair so they get over it and get on with life. That does not mean one does not have compassion or empathy for those who are still trapped in the cycle of stupid decisions. But to think they can be fixed or saved by some outsider is the height of delusion. The best you can hope for is to make some space for them to start making the right decisions. But that will only work when the person has decided that they want to make it work.

Until then its just a matter of one day at a time. For the worse cases just keep them alive long enough in the hope they’ll make the right decision. One day. But feeding the excuses and denying the personal responsibility for getting on with life just postpones that day even further. Everything else is little more than feel good waffle.