With uncertainty forecast for the coming months and even years, Sophia Housing is leading the way through its collaborative partnerships designed to support the most vulnerable and get value for the State in its long-term supported housing projects.
For over 20 years, Sophia Housing has been crafting a model of housing with support that responds to the needs of homelessness in Ireland. Founded by Jean Quinn DW, the Sophia model of support places providing a home and the needs of the person at the centre of everything they do. This is a model that was ahead of its time, and many elements of Sophia’s model are now embodied in Housing First which is considered mainstream public policy and is central to the Government’s response to the homeless crisis.
A diverse range of partners has backed Sophia. Local Authorities and the Department of Housing have invested in Sophia developments across the State, over €30 Million of capital funding has been approved by the State, which across the country will support hundreds of people to progress out of homelessness. Many of these developments are unique as Religious Congregations have collaborated with Sophia to utilise land and buildings in towns and cities which have been centres of their communities for generations, reimagining them as housing for people who have complex support needs, people who need more than just a home.
Sophia’s response to the homeless and housing crises in Ireland has seen the organisation increase the number of people it supports by 100 per cent over the past four years. In the next three years, it will grow by a further 60 per cent, building hundreds of new homes. These new homes will come with support for at least 546 people including 86 families with 172 children.
One of its upcoming projects will create 52 new homes in the heart of Portlaoise town centre. The scheme brings together the Department of Housing, Laois County Council, the local parish and the Presentation Sisters utilising the former Sacred Heart Secondary School and surrounding lands.
The former convent, which is a protected structure and will be converted into three one-bedroom apartments and six two-bedroom apartments. Three new apartment blocks will be built onsite which will incorporate 23 two-bedroom apartments and 10 one-bedroom apartments along with four two-bedroom town houses.
The impact of such a development on the local community will go beyond providing much needed housing. The project will create a new public park and garden in the heart of the site and access to a proposed new ‘blueway’ which will link Portlaoise town centre with a large town park.
Since 2016, Sophia’s innovative response to homelessness has seen it enter into a collaboration agreement with Midlands Simon Community. This partnership is a best practice model in terms of getting optimal use and return for the public funds, by working together each organisation supports more people and achieves even greater outcomes.
The aftermath of Covid-19 will require innovative responses that bring diverse groups together. The Sophia model of providing homes and supporting people creates partnerships at the centre of communities to build homes for the most vulnerable.
John McEvoy is the Projects Manager with Sophia Housing.
T: 01 473 830