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Buying food or paying rent – people face a stark choice


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Buying food or paying rent – people face a stark choice

The delivery of social and affordable housing is not keeping pace with demand as families are forced to choose between food and paying the rent.

That’s according to one of the city’s homelessness charities, Galway Simon, which launched its Annual Impact Report for 2022 this week.

Speaking at its launch on Monday, Chief Executive Officer Karen Golden said the private rental market was falling short for many, particularly those reliant on Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) – people who would be eligible for social housing if there were enough units available.

And while there were 466 social homes delivered across Galway, Mayo and Roscommon in 2022, this was far outstripped by the 3,800 households on the most recent social housing needs assessments for the region.

As evictions continued in the private market, homelessness figures were likely to rise further in the coming months, said Ms Golden.

“While we welcome the supports that have been put in place to date, we need to see higher numbers of new social and affordable housing units delivered in the West in order to address the housing and homelessness crisis,” she said.

“The private rental market is not meeting the needs of many people, in particular those who are relying on Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). Many people are having to choose between everyday necessities like food, heat and electricity and paying their rent.

“Our frontline services are anticipating even a further increase in homelessness over the coming months and there is deep concern among Galway Simon’s teams about the winter ahead,” continued Ms Golden.

Last year, Galway Simon provided supports to just over 1,400 people, or 810 unique households.

Homelessness prevention services were provided to 615 households, including 214 families with 450 children.

Ms Golden said there was an overall a reduction in the numbers accessing emergency accommodation as a result of targeted strategies seeking to prevent individuals and families ending up in homelessness.

Department of Housing figures for 2022 showed a 6% drop in the number of people in emergency accommodation in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon compared to the peak of 576 people in November 2019. At the same time, figures have increased by 11% nationally.

“We believe that the strategic direction we set in 2019, and the huge work that our extraordinary teams have done in recent years in collaboration with our funders and supporters, is making a significant positive impact in combatting homelessness,” stated Ms Golden in the report.

“We also understand through our work that behind every one of these statistics is a person with their own story and unique needs. One person experiencing homelessness in the West is one person too many.”

The report notes a turnaround in the charity’s fundraising activities, with Covid-19 restrictions removed and a return to fundraising events.

Galway Simon shops were able to return to trading, with a total of €1.7 million gathered through both fundraisers and sales, an increase of 23% on the previous year.

Total expenditure for 2022 amounted to €7.6 million – an 18% increase on 2021. An operational surplus of €34,000 was generated. This represented a significantly smaller amount than the surplus of €742,000 in 2021.

Some 66% of Galway Simon’s income in 2022 was generated from Government and grant income, while fundraising, investment income and shop sales accounted for 22%.

The charity’s outgoings were, in the main, on service provision which amounted to 77% of its overall spend.

Fundraising and shop-related activities made up 8% of its expenditure, while 9% of its spend went on administration and support.

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