Galway’s homeless crisis shows no sign of abating

A homeless man sleeping rough in a doorway on Shop Street this week. Roscommon hurler Alan Moore is organising the ‘Gaelic Voices for Change’ sleep-out in Galway City on December 16 to highlight the homelessness crisis.
A homeless man sleeping rough in a doorway on Shop Street this week. Roscommon hurler Alan Moore is organising the ‘Gaelic Voices for Change’ sleep-out in Galway City on December 16 to highlight the homelessness crisis.

On a single night last month 416 adults and children in Galway had to avail of emergency accommodation while a further 27 people were sleeping rough – both among the highest numbers since Cope Galway started its records.

The charity’s most recent census conducted between November 21 and 22 found that it provided a roof for 84 families – 195 adults and 221 children – in its own properties as well as in hotels and B&Bs.

It also gave sleeping bags to a further 27 people who refused a bed or were not entitled to access emergency accommodation because they did not meet the ‘habitual residency’ rules.

A similar head count on the last Tuesday of January found Cope was putting up 309 people in a mixture of accommodation. Last April the number of homeless families was recorded as 60.

“It continues to creep up, in particular we have more and more families finding themselves homeless. In the main because it’s because they’ve been given notice to quit because the property is being sold or being used by the landlord’s family,” explained spokesman Martin O’Connor.

Cope Galway opened an extra 21 ‘winter response beds’ at its Seamus Quirke day facility on November 26 and at its busiest 18 rough sleepers have stayed the night.

“Today there are a small number of families who are over two years in emergency accommodation. Most of those requiring emergency accommodation stay there for an extended period of time due to difficulties in finding accommodation,” he stated.

Galway Simon have warned that the numbers in emergency accommodation are just the tip of the iceberg – they do not include couch surfers or those involuntarily sharing.

“We are currently working with approximately 350 households, yet less than 20 of these would be included in the national emergency accommodation figures,” said Karen Golden, CEO of the Galway Simon Community.

“Emergency accommodation is supposed to be a temporary solution but more and more, people are having to spend longer periods of time living with the stress and trauma of an emergency response, because there is just simply nowhere for them to move on to,” she stated.

“Rents have increased by 41% over the last three years in Galway. Back in 2014, there were only 36 people recorded as being in emergency accommodation and that figure has shot up to over 400 in just four years. Given the slow pace at which new housing is coming on stream, we believe the crisis will continue to worsen, before it starts to improve.”

Since 2012, the Business Leader Sleepout has seen 131 local figures raise €527,000 for Cope. This year’s donations will go to the charity’s street outreach service supporting rough sleepers, and providing practical and emotional supports for families living in emergency accommodation including counselling services, recreational activities and funding towards the cost of education and training.

It will also help pay for homeless people to access detox and treatment services.

If members of the public become aware of anyone rough sleeping, they can be directed to the Cope day centre. Call 085 800 9641 or 085 800 9709.