Tuesday 9th March 2021
While there was a very welcome drop in the number of homeless families staying in Emergency Accommodation in the West during 2020, the number of single adults in Emergency Homeless Accommodation has been rising over the Winter months and is now higher than prior to the pandemic. Galway Simon Community say they have seen no let up in the number of people accessing their services for help over the last year, and also expressed concerns that the number of people experiencing homelessness may rise steeply again when the moratorium on evictions is lifted as Covid-19 restrictions are eased.
According to the latest figures released by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, 377 people including 42 families with 108 children were recorded as living in Emergency Accommodation in the West of Ireland during January. This was an increase of 43 people compared to December 2020 and represented the first monthly increase since March 2020. There were 245 single adults in Emergency Accommodation in January, up from 236 a year earlier.
Karen Golden, CEO of Galway Simon Community, spoke about the charity’s work in 2020 and the concerns for the year ahead.
“In 2020, Galway Simon Community supported 646 households comprising 1,207 men, women and children. We saw no decrease in the number of people needing our Services during the pandemic. The homelessness crisis remains a very significant issue within our community and we are very concerned that when the restrictions are lifted, we may see a steep rise in the number of people facing homelessness,” Karen explained.
Providing supports to source affordable rented accommodation is an important part of the charity’s work. This helps to prevent individuals and families from entering into emergency accommodation, as well as enabling people to move on from Galway Simon’s homeless services to live independently. However, the charity says sourcing affordable accommodation has become “increasingly difficult” over recent years.
“The current supply of housing and the rate of new housing coming on stream in Galway is inadequate relative to demand across social, affordable and private housing. The consequence of this has been an increasing overreliance on the Private Rental Sector which as we know is unaffordable and out of reach for many. There is a particular shortage of one bed properties for single people”, Karen said.
Locked Out of the Market, a Simon Communities of Ireland report released last month, looked at available properties within HAP limits to rent in 16 areas throughout Ireland in December 2020, including Galway City Centre and the wider Galway City area. For the fifth study in a row, there were no properties that fell within the HAP limits in Galway City Centre, and just three properties were available to rent within the HAP limits in the wider Galway City area.
The snapshot study found rent for one-bed properties in Galway City Centre ranged from €800 to €2,950 and in the wider Galway City area ranged from €650 to €1,400. The majority of asking rents were well above the HAP limits for the respective categories.
“It’s clear that we still have an affordability crisis across the housing sector and the latest Locked Out report has highlighted this once again. The lack of affordable accommodation is a key factor in people finding themselves homeless. In addition to the housing crisis, there are over 25,000 people receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment in Galway and we have yet to see the full economic impact of Covid across the City and County”, Karen continued.
“Government commitment to and investment in social and affordable housing across all accommodation types both locally and nationwide is critical. While we await the delivery of new homes, it’s vitally important that we continue to ensure that Prevention Services are supported so that we can prevent as many people as possible from sliding into Emergency Accommodation. We must remember that behind every one of these statistics is a person experiencing the trauma and distress of homelessness”, Karen said.