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Published on: Galway Simon Community News

Homeless families under huge strain in run up to Christmas

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Galway Simon Community has responded to the latest emergency accommodation figures saying that it is shocking that so many families will have to spend Christmas with no home.

The figures for October showed that there was 458 people in emergency accommodation in the West of Ireland, an increase of 37 people on the previous month. The number of families in emergency accommodation has increased by 57% compared to the same period last year, with 77 families including 167 children now living in emergency accommodation in the West of Ireland.

Karen Golden, CEO of Galway Simon Community said it’s not acceptable that so many children are having to wake up every day in emergency accommodation and that a greater focus needs to be placed on prevention.

“Emergency accommodation is supposed to be a temporary solution but more and more, people are having to spend longer periods of time living with the stress and trauma of an emergency response, because there is just simply nowhere for them to move on to. Rents have increased by 41% over the last three years in Galway. Very few household incomes have increased by a similar percentage over this period and consequently, the rising cost of renting is putting huge pressure on individuals and families.

“It’s shocking that 77 families, including 167 children, will have to spend Christmas with no home to go to. Back in 2014, there were only 36 people recorded as being in emergency accommodation and that figure has shot up to 458 in just four years. Given the slow pace at which new housing is coming on stream, we believe the crisis will continue to worsen, before it starts to improve.

“The numbers in Emergency Accommodation are just the tip of the iceberg – they do not include rough sleepers, couch surfers or those involuntarily sharing.  We are currently working with approximately 350 households, yet less than twenty of these would be included in the Emergency Accommodation figures.

“We acknowledge that providing an emergency response is essential to allow people to have a place to stay while they are trying to secure long-term accommodation. However, it is supposed to be a very short term solution but in reality, this is not the case. Individuals and families end up spending long periods of time in emergency accommodation because they have no move on options. Children stuck in this kind of accommodation are having their childhoods taken away from them.

“It’s essential that more of a focus is placed on preventing people from having to access emergency accommodation in the first place. Our prevention team here at Galway Simon helps those at risk of becoming homeless to either sustain the tenancy they already have or to secure another tenancy, before they lose their home.  If we can prevent people from having to access emergency accommodation in hostels, B&Bs and hotels, the outcomes are so much better – adults and children alike do not have to experience the stress and trauma of this uncertain environment.”

“Helen” (not her real name) and her family are being supported by the charity. They were almost evicted three years ago but after engaging with Galway Simon Community, the charity’s homelessness prevention team stepped in and prevented them from losing their home and having to access emergency accommodation. “Three years ago, my children, my husband and I nearly ended up being evicted from our home – and we still may end up there yet,” explains Helen.

“At that time, my youngest daughter was born weeks early and I suddenly needed to buy lots of important equipment to keep her healthy and alive. We had no savings. Bill after bill was stacking up so we dipped into the rent money thinking … we would work that out later. What else could I do?

We fell severely behind in our rent and the next thing we knew, we were being threatened with eviction. It was terrifying. Just blow after blow kept landing on us. The accumulation of several knock-backs – the girls health issues, a death in the family, the kind of thing that could happen to anyone, but all happening at once.”

The charity explained that with the current shortage of housing, they are continuing to focus on homelessness prevention. Galway Simon is working to prevent families like Helen’s from having to leave their home or, when this is not possible, they support people to source alternative accommodation.  To hear Helen’s story in her own words, watch Galway Simon’s video below.

Monday 3rd December 2018