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Published on: Galway Simon Community News

Homelessness in West growing eight times faster than nationally

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Galway Simon Community have responded to the latest emergency accommodation figures saying it’s deeply disappointing to see the number of people in emergency accommodation nationally pass the 10,000 mark and to see further significant increases in the West of Ireland.

According to the new figures from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, 556 people were in emergency accommodation in the West of Ireland in February, representing a 39% increase on the same period last year. These numbers included 79 families with 201 children, each one of whom has no place to call home.

Karen Golden, CEO of Galway Simon Community explained the disappointment around these figures and why prevention needs to be the focus of the government.

“It is deeply frustrating to see the emergency accommodation numbers continue to increase month on month; with more and more people being affected by homelessness and having their lives turned upside down. The number of people in emergency accommodation in the West of Ireland in February increased by 39% compared to the same period last year – this is 8 times the rate of the national increase”, Karen said.

“Just last week, Minister Eoghan Murphy spoke on Morning Ireland from Galway and recognised that the homeless figures do not represent the full extent of the crisis. Mr Murphy went on to say that it was inappropriate to compare the situation of those in living emergency accommodation to those living in other forms of homelessness such as sofa surfing or overcrowding.  If we were to include those who are sometimes referred to as the ‘hidden homeless’ – those who are sleeping rough, involuntarily sharing or living in domestic refuges – the homelessness figures would be much higher”, Karen added.

Affordable housing still remains out of reach for many in Galway. Last week, the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) Rent Index Report for the last quarter of 2018 was released and showed that rent in Galway city and county had fallen by 8.7% compared to the previous quarter. The average rent recorded during Q4 2018 was €1,016 compared to €1,113 the previous quarter.

Speaking about the latest RTB report, Karen said “it is welcoming news to see that rents fell in the last quarter of 2018 and we would hope that this is a trend that will continue. However, it is important to note that the figures reported by the RTB are in marked contrast to the figures which reported a 13% increase in rent from Q4 2017 to Q4 2018, with the average rent at the end of last year in Galway city at €1,239. The levels of rent in Galway are still out of reach for many who rely on housing supports and those who are middle or low-income earners”.

“The bottom line is that there are still 355 adults and 201 children who are living in emergency accommodation in the West, with many more living in hidden homelessness situations or in homeless services. Galway needs more housing to be built across all tenure types – social, affordable, private rented and owner occupied. Until more secure affordable housing becomes available, Galway Simon will continue to focus on prevention services – supporting people to remain in their own home or to secure new accommodation before they slide into emergency situations.  Emergency accommodation can be an extremely traumatic experience and it is also more costly than accommodating people in their own home. If the government were to place more of a focus on prevention measures, this would create far better outcomes for people”, she added.

Tuesday 2nd April 2019