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More young sleeping on the street in Galway City

Francis Farragher

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Up to nine people are sleeping rough on the streets of Galway each night with a further 17 a day seeking a range of prevention and emergency services, according to the local Simon Community.

A freeze on the building of Council houses, high rents in the private sector and cuts in certain unemployment benefits for the under-23s, are being blamed for the ongoing housing crisis in the city.

Bill Griffin, CEO of Galway Simon Community, told the Sentinel that the problem of people sleeping rough in the city wasn’t just confined to men – it included women and an increasing number of young people.

“What we are also seeing is an increasing number of families being unable to source private rented accommodation. Many landlords just won’t accept rent supplement so where are those families to go,” said Bill Griffin.

He added that while the long term solution lay in the provision of more social and Council housing units, interim measures had to be put in place to tackle an urgent, growing problem in the city.

“It is unacceptable that people would have to sleep out on the streets or remain in emergency accommodation for far too long – this crisis has been building for some time.

“It is affecting every aspect of society – families, single people, young people, older people, people with severe health problems, people battling drug and alcohol issues – people that this State has failed from a young age,” said Bill Griffin.

Last week, Simon launched their national advocacy campaign called ‘Stand and Deliver’ in advance of National Simon Week that takes place from September 29 to October 5.

The campaign is asked the public for their support to get the Government to deliver on their commitment to end homelessness by 2016.

“I suppose we’ve been lucky in recent weeks with the fine weather but as we move into late autumn and early winter, and the colder times arrive, sleeping rough is a real health hazard. We just cannot sit around and do nothing,” said Bill Griffin.

He also pointed out, that in Galway over recent months, there was a 57% increase in people seeking prevention services as they faced into the threat of possible homelessness.

Mr Griffin said that people who were homeless were just not in a position to wait, and he added that housing must be provided in areas where the other support services are easily accessible.

“It is also vital that support services are provided for everyone. We must tackle the issues that often cause or accompany homelessness. These include low income, debt burden, poor health and wellbeing, loneliness and isolation, problematic drug and/or alcohol use and unemployment,” said the Simon CEO.

CITY TRIBUNE

Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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