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End of eviction moratorium sees perfect housing storm

The easing of Covid-19 restrictions – including the lifting of the moratorium on evictions and a deepening housing crisis – has seen the Galway Simon Community support more people than ever at risk of and experiencing homelessness.

The charity recorded a massive increase of 26 per cent last year in the number of households supported compared to 2020, according to their 2021 Annual Impact Report, launched this week by Minister of State, Joe O’Brien.

Galway Simon Community’s CEO Karen Golden revealed they supported 814 unique households last year – including 246 families, with 563 children.

And while she welcomed the 364 new social homes delivered across Galway, Mayo and Roscommon in 2021, she also warned that demand continues to far outstrip supply with 4,052 households on the social housing waiting lists.

She further pointed out that – as rents continue to increase and more landlords are exiting the rental market – there are fewer properties available to rent.

All of that, she said, was further compounded by the increase in the cost of living which has left many who would never have seen themselves accessing homeless services, turning to Galway Simon for support.

In total, she revealed, the charity supported 1,511 people across its homelessness prevention and housing services last year. The annual report also revealed that the number of 18-25-year olds supported across Simon’s services increased by 25 per cent in 2021 over 2020.

“Our teams are more stretched than ever before, but we continue to do all that we can to support people for as long as they need us,” said Ms Golden.

“In 2021, we provided supports to rough sleepers and 4,745 emergency bed nights. We established new Housing First tenancies in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.

“We extended the residential places in our Youth Service from eight to twelve, and acquired our first properties to provide tenancies for care leavers. Over 90% of those who accessed our City Prevention Service did not enter Emergency Accommodation. 37,084 meals were provided across our services,” she added.

Minister O’Brien acknowledged that the rise in homelessness ‘is a serious concern for Government and is being actively addressed’.

And he said that increasing social housing and residential housing supply is key to eradicating homelessness.

“At the moment State investment of over €4 billion a year in housing is aimed at increasing supply and the Housing For All plan is beginning to take root and deliver improvements,” he said.

The Galway Simon CEO acknowledged the incredible support that was provided by the charity’s funders, donors and supporters in 2021.

She also thanked all of the volunteers who made such an extraordinary contribution to Galway Simon Community’s work over the last year and who are an integral part of the community.

But she warned that there was is deep concern among Galway Simon’s teams about the winter ahead.

She called on the government to prioritise measures in the budget to mitigate the risks of food and fuel poverty, and the risks of homelessness, this winter.

(Photo: Galway Simon Community Karen Feeney and CEO Karen Golden with Minister of State for Community Development and Charities Joe O’Brien at the launch of Galway Simon Community’s Annual Impact Report).

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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