Council staff to get ‘empathy training’

DONEGAL County Council staff are to receive ‘empathy’ training as part of a new plan to tackle homelessness.
The county’s Housing Strategic Policy Committee has heard the training will focus on protecting society’s most vulnerable following a rise in domestic violence.
The training will aim to engender an “empathetic and informed approach” when it comes to understanding the challenges facing people who are experiencing homelessness.
Council housing official Eamonn Brown said, “Quite often coming in to our office is the worst day of their lives.”
He was referring to an increase in domestic violence cases which have contributed to rising homeless figures in the county.
The North West Region Homeless Action Plan 2023 – 2028 will see council staff trained in crisis intervention, focusing on providing mental health support for vulnerable people facing homelessness.
Councillors also heard that the previous trend of single males being disproportionately affected by homelessness has “slowly shifted”.
The report outlined that in recent years there has been a huge rise in the number of families reporting as homeless in Donegal.
Donegal County Council officials said they were concerned that couch surfers or ‘hidden homeless’ were not being recorded properly so the actual figure could in fact be higher.
Despite the rise in demand, there is currently no family hub model in the county.
Councillor Donal Coyle said he was concerned at the spike in domestic violence and how it has impacted families.
The Letterkenny councillor gave an example of a distressing situation where a family was left stranded in the middle of the night as there was no emergency accommodation available.
Councillor Gerry McMonagle echoed the concerns and said the lack of short term solutions for families presenting as homeless was worrying.
His colleague John Shéamuis Ó Fearraigh urged the council to consider purchasing homes to be used for emergency accommodation for such situations.
The meeting also heard that a shortage in small private rented properties and a sharp increase in rent prices has led to an increase in the number of single adult homeless in Donegal with people staying much longer in temporary shelter than previously.
Eamonn Brown added that there was an increased likelihood that if the current eviction ban was not extended then more people would be left in such a precarious position.

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