HOMELESS charity Depaul has launched an urgent Christmas appeal as demand for its family accommodation and support services intensify across Northern Ireland.
The organisation, which supports men, women and children through its 37 services across the north and the Republic, said staff are also being inundated with enquiries about food banks as the festive season approaches.
Currently, while waiting lists for its family accommodation increase, the charity has seen a 33 per cent reduction in the number of people moving out of its emergency accommodation.
David Carroll, chief executive of Depaul, said food and energy poverty "is a huge barrier for families wanting to exit homelessness".
"To be in a situation where we’re helping families with young children source food from a food bank is not something we should be proud of as a society," he said.
"A homeless shelter is not somewhere children should be spending Christmas.
"If we have young people growing roots in homelessness, we are creating more problems. The longer people are in homelessness, the more problems arise for them. Day to day, we see the consequences of what happens if we don’t intervene early enough."
Mr Carroll revealed there had been a 33 per cent reduction in the number of people moving out of Depaul's emergency family accommodation services compared to this time last year "because of a lack of housing and inflated energy prices and utility bills".
Deirdre Canavan, head of services for Depaul in Northern Ireland says the profile and needs of families entering homelessness has changed.
"We are seeing younger parents with complex health needs presenting to our services and this comes with additional support needs," she said.
"There is a severe shortage of mental health and addiction supports which means we can’t always support people the way they need it. As a homeless charity this is a huge block for us.
"Our experience is that people in homelessness have experienced trauma in their life and additional mental health and addiction supports are crucial for this cohort."
Ms Canavan added: "Any donation will help us to directly support families to get out of homelessness.
"It will also help prevent other families and individuals from becoming homeless in the first place.
"People can donate to Depaul’s urgent Christmas Appeal at www.depaul.ie or by calling 02890 647755."