The first six months of the year have seen a marked increase in homelessness being experienced in Galway City, according to statistics released by COPE Galway.
On one night at the start of June COPE were working with 148 households who were either homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Included in these numbers were 157 adults and, worryingly, 94 children.
With the huge shortage of social housing and the increase in rent costs currently being experienced in Galway, this has “caused a near perfect storm”, according to Martin O’Connor, Assistant CEO of COPE Galway.
COPE Galway operates to provide services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, women and children experiencing domestic violence and for older people living independently in the community.
The services provided by the charity focus on working with and supporting individuals to address underlying issues which contributed to their homelessness and to identify and secure move-on housing.
Having recently gone to Facebook in an appeal for blankets, the assistant CEO explained that appeals of this nature were nothing out of the ordinary for a charity like COPE Galway.
“[The appeal] is nothing out of the ordinary. Cope regularly carry out these appeals to help the people sleeping rough or even for the people moving on, [it’s both] beneficial and a support mechanism” explained Mr. O’Connor.
The Assistant CEO revealed some of the factors that have lead to the increase in homelessness in Galway City.
“[The] current shortage of housing in both the social housing and private rented sector and ever-increasing rent levels means that homelessness is something more and more people will experience,” warned Mr. O’Connor.
The homeless population in Galway has generally seen a higher proportion of men than women and children experiencing homelessness.
In recent times, there has been a significant increase in the numbers of families experiencing homelessness in Galway.
“Over the past ten or so weeks there has been … an unprecedented level of demand for emergency accommodation in Galway city with the growth in the numbers of families becoming homeless especially concerning.”
The number of households in emergency accommodation on June 2 and June 3 was 64.
Included in these numbers, were 19 families with a total of 37 children having to be accommodated on this night.
This shocking statistic is partly as a result of issues in the wider housing market. On top of this social, personal and health issues are always rearing their heads.
To be considered as suffering from long term homelessness, one needs to be homeless for six consecutive months. This figure has risen in Galway with many people continually struggling to secure housing, be it private or social.
This has led to more people availing of emergency accommodation as well as the general increase in numbers of people experiencing homelessness.
The average time people have spent in emergency accommodation or spent availing of homeless facilities has seen an increase over the years.
“The average several years ago was between four and five weeks, whereas nowadays it’s between seven and nine weeks” said Mr. O’Connor. He pointed out that “people are struggling to move through the services.”
Issues surrounding housing in Galway have been well documented.
Cllr Catherine Connolly was critical of the level of investment in social housing after the government announced the plan to build 518 houses in Galway by 2017.
“While any proposal to build additional social housing units has to be welcomed, the government’s initiative utterly fails to grasp the depth of the housing crisis in Galway City,” she said.
In the most recent quarterly report from the City Council Housing Department showed that the current number of households on the waiting list stands at 4,041, this doesn’t include the 370 households on the County waiting list, with a further 75 applications currently waiting to be processed.
Coupling this with the skyrocketing rental costs there is scope for this problem to continue to grow.
The cost of renting a three-bed house in city has soared to €945, according to Daft.ie.
This is backed up by the fact that the majority of families seeking assistance are coming out of the private rented accommodation sector.
Martín O’Connor, says further provision of affordable social housing is the only solution to the growing problem of homelessness in the city.
Galway family’s light show adds magic to Christmas
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Carrick Family Light Show returns tonight (Friday) as 70,000 lights are illuminated in aid of a worthy local charity.
The man behind the lights spectacular, James Carrick, says test runs this week have proven successful and the family is ready to mark another Christmas in style.
“This is our fourth Christmas doing it. We started in 2019, but Covid was around for the last two years so it will be great this year not having to worry about that so much,” says James, who has spent the last few weeks carefully rebuilding the show at his home in Lurgan Park, Renmore.
He’s added “a few bits and pieces this year” – his brother buying the house next door has provided him a ‘blank canvas’ to extend.
Over the past three years, the show has raised almost €30,000 for local charities and James hopes to build on that this year – offering the light show for free, as always, and giving the opportunity to donate if people wish to do so.
The show runs nightly from 6.30pm, Monday to Saturday, with an extra kids show on Sundays at 5pm at 167 Lurgan Park (H91 Y17D). Donations can be made at the shows or by searching ‘idonate Carrick Family Light Show’ online.
‘Chaos’ for Christmas as Martin junction works delayed again
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Motorists attempting to get into Galway are facing a nightmare before Christmas as continued delays to the works at the Martin roundabout create traffic chaos on the east side of the city.
Anger over the controversial project to remove the roundabout at Galway Clinic intensified this week as the completion date was pushed out to February – nearly a year after works began and six months later than the supposed deadline.
Local councillor Alan Cheevers (FF) told the Galway City Tribune that he had lost all confidence in the Transport Department in the City Council and hit out at their “outsourcing the problem” to private contractors.
He said despite repeated representations from him, the local authority was refusing to take responsibility for the bedlam caused by the works, which he said had resulted in “three minor collisions in the last five weeks”.
“The bottom line is that this has been an absolute shambles and I’ve lost all faith in senior officials in City Hall. When I raised the issue again this week, I was accused of looking for newspaper headlines – they will not take responsibility,” said the City East councillor.
“It’s like an obstacle course up there, and now they’re saying February for completion. I’ve no confidence it will even be done by then – they’re out of their depth. If you look at what they’re saying, they say they’ll be doing the surfacing until February,” continued Cllr Cheevers, anticipating that works could still be ongoing next March or April.
In a statement issued by contractors Fox Building Engineers Ltd and Galway City Council, it was claimed that “supply chain issues” had impacted severely on the project.
Motorists this week reported delays of up to an hour just to travel the short distance from Briarhill Shopping Centre as far as the Doughiska Road-Dublin Road junction, a distance of less than 2km.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the December 2 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Councillors rubber stamp ‘temporary’ helipad after nine years in place
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Health Service Executive (HSE) came under fire over the ‘temporary’ helipad serving University Hospital Galway at a meeting to finalise the Galway City Development Plan for 2023-29.
Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, made a point of publicly highlighting his dissatisfaction with the HSE, calling on them to urgently “regularise” the planning permission for the helipad.
BY ANDREW HAMILTON
Speaking on the issue, Cllr Frank Fahy (FG) said that he mistrusted the HSE’s proposal concerning the helipad, saying that previous promises about the site had not been kept.
Currently, University Hospital Galway operates the helipad to transport medical emergencies on Council-owned land in Shantalla – it has been used for past nine years, despite the HSE saying it would be used for six months.
The temporary structure, the busiest helipad in Ireland, transports patients from as far north as Donegal to the hospital.
Councillors voted to change the Galway City Development Plan to provide for a helipad at this location but urged the HSE to normalise the planning permission at the site and to provide compensation to the local community for the loss of a section of the park.
Mr McGrath said that he wouldn’t “wait forever” for the HSE to bring the site in line with the planning laws.
Last month marked the ninth anniversary of when the Saolta University Hospital Group gave a commitment to the people of Shantalla about the public land it borrowed.
Tony Canavan, the then Chief Operating Officer, and now CEO of Saolta, said that the land would be used to accommodate a helipad at the rear of UHG for six months only.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the December 2 edition of the Galway City Tribune where there is extensive coverage of rezoning decisions under the City Development Plan. You can support our journalism and buy a digital edition HERE.