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Galway Simon braced for upsurge in homelessness when evictions moratorium ends

A total of 265 homeless adults in the West were accommodated in hotels, B&Bs and hubs in the last week of January, the most up-to-date figures available.

The official statistics released by the Department of Housing for the week of January 23/29 show the numbers were slightly down on December when there were 272 adults availing of emergency accommodation.

It was the same as November and up on the situation in October when the figure was 250.

The majority – 155 – were between the ages of 25 and 44 and most were Irish citizens (117).

In the west, which includes the two Galway councils, Mayo and Roscommon, there were 95 families with 201 children recorded in a mixture of private emergency accommodation such as hotels and B&Bs and supported temporary accommodation, including family hubs and hostels.  That is down from four months ago, when there were 101 families with 220 children being put up.

In December there were 100 families and 213 children.

There are 36 tenants in the west currently receiving wraparound supports to help them sustain their home and reengage in the community under the Government’s ‘Housing First’ policy, with two new tenancies created in the last three months of 2022.

Galway Simon’s head of fundraising and communications, Fintan Maher, said the continuing high level of homelessness in the west is very challenging.

“Over the last couple of months, we have seen a very welcome reduction in the number of people in emergency accommodation in the West.  This is in contrast to the national figures which are increasing,” he explained.

“The causes of homelessness are many and complex. We believe that the work of Galway Simon’s dedicated prevention services are having a positive impact on the number of people who find themselves with no choice but to access emergency accommodation. Over 90% of the households supported by our prevention team in the last two years did not access emergency accommodation.”

There has been a welcome decrease in the number of young adults (18-24) in emergency accommodation, falling in January to 60 in the west. Galway Simon’s dedicated Youth Service supported over 100 young adults in 2022.

“The 26% increase in the level of family homelessness over the past year in the west is deeply concerning.  It is very distressing to see 95 families with 201 children living in emergency accommodation in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.”

Also of concern is the rise in female homelessness.

“The number of female adults in emergency accommodation grew by 15% in the past twelve months – 47% of homeless adults in the west are women, up from 40% in January of last year.

“Galway Simon’s dedicated Women & Family Service provides specialised supports to women and their families affected by homelessness. Our team works with women to prevent them from experiencing the trauma of homelessness and to help them with accessing secure and affordable housing. Other supports, including mental health support, are also provided to assist women in coming to terms with past trauma they may have suffered.”

Mr Maher said Galway Simon expects the coming months will be extremely challenging.

“The moratorium on evictions was a ‘least worst’ option over the winter months. It has helped to keep many people in their homes over the coldest months of the year. The indications now are that the moratorium will not be extended beyond March, and we believe that there will be an upsurge in the number of notices to quit when it comes to an end.

“Demand for housing here in the west continues to outstrip supply.  While the new social housing units delivered last year were very welcome, the number of units coming on stream is well below what is needed.  Landlords are continuing to exit the private rental market and demand for rental properties continues to far outstrip supply.”

Rents are still increasing – in Galway City average rents in December 2022 were 19.4% higher than December 2021.

The Galway Simon Community supported over 800 households including over 220 families with more than 470 children throughout 2022.

Cope Galway has also been moving from a reactive service to one which focuses on prevention through early engagement. It had one of its busiest years in almost 50 years in 2021 with the number of homeless people helped by the charity jumping by 14 per cent.

The greatest share of its resources went to help 1,316 families and individuals who were homeless or at risk of losing their home.

Of these, 994 were adults, 322 were children, 119 were families and 814 were single people, whose numbers were up by over a third on 2020.

The organisation extended its Street Outreach Service for rough sleepers from one to four mornings a week to deal with the numbers of regular street sleepers, who were mainly migrants and ineligible for services such as emergency accommodation.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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