Homelessness in Galway at unprecedented level, says NGO

Fifty sleeping in doorways every night, up to 100 children in emergency accommodation

“The most obvious manifestation of the crisis are the numbers of people who can be seen bedding down in shop doorways in the city centre at night time.” Photograph: Getty Images

“The most obvious manifestation of the crisis are the numbers of people who can be seen bedding down in shop doorways in the city centre at night time.” Photograph: Getty Images

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As Galway is seized by Ballybrit race fever this week, a homeless charity has described the accommodation situation in the city as “unprecedented” and at “crisis” levels.

Up to 50 people are sleeping “rough” in Galway every night, according to Cope Galway.

The organisation has written to Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, urging him to “tackle the current homeless crisis as his number one priority in framing Budget 2018”.

In addition to 50 rough sleepers there are also 50 homeless families, including up to 100 children, and 45 “single person” households in emergency accommodation in Galway city on any given night, says Cope Galway chief executive Martin O’Connor.

“The most obvious manifestation of the crisis are the numbers of people who can be seen bedding down in shop doorways in the city centre at night time.

“What most people in our community don’t realise is that there are so many people, families and single-person households trapped in emergency accommodation for weeks and months at a time, as they cannot find and secure housing.”

Mr O’Connor said the agency had anticipated that the city’s festival season could increase demand for or inflate prices in guesthouses, and it had leased third-level student accommodation as an alternative.

Race week

“In previous years there were instances where we couldn’t find bed and breakfasts for emergency accommodation during race week,”he said. “We now have 34 student accommodation units for families in the summer, but these units will be gone by late august as students return.

“Galway reflects a national picture where social housing is slow to come on stream, and there is a shortage of accommodation in the private rental sector. Our sense is that availability of social housing is coming to a close, and building needs to happen now.”

Cope Galway dealt with 161 households transferring into housing between May 1st, 2016, and July 1st, 2017. One in three were accommodated in social housing, while another third are in the private rental sector.

Cope Galway is calling for increases in maximum cap limits for the Government’s housing assistance payment (HAP) scheme to correspond with market rent levels, and an expansion to Galway of the homeless HAP scheme.

Discretion

This latter scheme has been piloted by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive on behalf of the Dublin local authorities, and provides discretion to exceed the HAP rent limits for homeless households.

Mr O’Connor said homeless services in Galway were “stretched to breaking point”, and there were “very real concerns about the coming autumn and winter period”.

“There is a lot of really good work happening in terms of intervening early to help prevent someone becoming homeless, and there is a steady stream of allocations of social housing. But it feels that this is hardly making a dent on the large numbers coming through our doors.

“Funding levels for homeless services in Galway have been largely stagnant over the past number of years despite the increasing levels of demands,” said Mr O’Connor. “Without the generosity of the people of Galway through their support of our work it would not be possible to do as much as we are doing.”

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