Homeless children in Galway would fill ‘entire school’

Cope Galway sees increase in homeless children of almost 40 per cent

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy described the figures as very disappointing. Photograph: iStock

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy described the figures as very disappointing. Photograph: iStock

 

The number of children experiencing homelessness in Galway would now fill an entire school, the chief executive of a charity has said.

Speaking in advance of the launch of Cope Galway’s annual report on Monday, Jacquie Horan highlighted an increase of almost 40 per cent in the numbers of children the homelessness charity supported, up from 369 in 2015 to 512 last year.

“It is heart-wrenching to think that the numbers of children in our community who experienced the effects of homelessness in 2016 would fill an entire school,” she said.

Ms Horan said becoming homeless was often only the beginning of this traumatic experience for a child. “Living in emergency accommodation, often in tourist accommodation such as hotels or B&Bs for extended periods of time, further compounds this trauma,” she said.

Cope Galway provides a range of services to homeless people and people at risk of homelessness. It also provides supports for women and children who are victims of domestic violence as well as older people living in the community.

The charity’s annual report records a 27 per cent increase in the numbers of families seeking assistance due to homelessness or the risk of homelessness, as well as an “alarming 39 per cent increase” in the numbers of children.

It also shows it supported an additional 158 children of women who sought the assistance of its domestic violence services, including refuge, last year.

Basic rights

Also speaking in advance of the launch on Monday, the Government’s special rapporteur for children, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, said homelessness in childhood was particularly damaging, occurring during the most important developmental years in a child’s life.

“Having to rely on placing families in hotel and other tourist accommodation for extended periods of time means a child’s most basic rights to education, play and nutrition can be seriously affected, ” he said.

The annual report will also outline the real experiences of families and individuals in crisis.

Ms Horan said every effort must be made to safeguard children against the trauma and disadvantages that the experience of homelessness will give rise to in their lives and in their education and future prospects in life.