Children make up over half of Galway’s homeless

Sleeping rough on Lombard Street in the Galway City.

There were 219 people homeless in Galway for Christmas week including 130 children, with the situation here getting significantly worse in the past year, according to the latest figures released.

The statistics contained in the December homelessness report from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government shows there was an increase compared to November, when 199 people registered as homeless in Galway.

In the week of December 19 to 25 2017, 165 people were recorded as homeless in Galway, 65 of them children.

This bucked the national trend which showed a decrease of 270 in the number of people experiencing homelessness. Some 8,587 people were classified as homeless in the last week of 2017 – 3,079 of them “dependents” or below the age of 18.

The report is based on data provided by housing authorities and includes details of individuals utilising State-funded emergency accommodation arrangements that are overseen by housing authorities.

Of the 227 people registered as homeless in the counties of Galway, Mayo and Roscommon between December 25 and New Year’s Eve, all bar eight are living in Galway.

The majority – 142 – were male. Some 91 were being put up in privately owned hotels, B&Bs and other emergency accommodation; 111 were in supported temporary accommodation, including hostels, while a further 27 were in emergency accommodation without any professional onsite support.

The number of extra emergency beds for homeless people in the city were than doubled this winter and are almost always occupied.

Since November 27, there have been 31 more beds laid on for rough sleepers – 17 more than made available in last year’s ‘Cold Weather Response’ initiative.

There continues to be a number of people sleeping outside, some in shop doorways, others in tents, refusing all offers of shelter for a variety of complex reasons, according to Martin O’Connor, assistant CEO of the charity Cope Galway.

The huge increase in homeless people on the city streets during the summer abated by late August. But it took another leap in October when a new cohort of Roma people travelled from Dublin to the west. The upwards trend has continued since.

Cope Galway homeless services accommodated and supported 211 families with 512 children in 2016 compared to 166 families with 493 children in 2015.

Minister Eoghan Murphy welcomed the fact that significantly fewer children nationally were in emergency arrangements during December compared to the previous month and that family homelessness was at its lowest level since June 2017.

“Obviously we still have more work to do to help children and families in to secure homes, but this is good progress for those families who were accommodated during the month of December,” he stated.

“A lot of good work was done in 2017, with 4000 adults exiting homelessness.

“Homelessness will continue to be a challenge and the Government will continue to work relentlessly to exit as many people from emergency accommodation, as well as prevent people from entering homeless services, over the course of 2018.”