More than 130 families – including 300 children – were given homeless assistance in Galway last year by housing charity COPE Galway, with the situation continuing to worsen.
The extent of Galway’s housing crisis is borne out in stark figures revealed in the charity’s Annual Report for 2014; 652 adults and their 311 children were affected by homelessness last year, but COPE was unable to accommodate 227 women with 280 children who requested refuge, due to lack of space.
A breakdown of the figures shows emergency accommodation was provided for a total of 260 households, comprising 181 single men, 56 single women, 27 lone parent families and 55 children.
The charity has now pleaded with landlords to consider accepting capped rents under the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) and rent supplement levels – and forego up to €3,000 extra which they could achieve on the open rental market.
Chief Executive Officer Jacquie Horan said: “As an alternative to contributing to COPE Galway financially, landlords would forego the added rent available on the open market, in support of housing for those experiencing homelessness in our local community.
“For example, a landlord willing to forego an extra income of €3,000 per year could provide a house for a family facing homelessness, while continuing to receive an RAS rental income of €850 per month.”
She explained that the situation is continuing to worsen this year.
“Recent months have seen this situation worsen with an increasing number of families becoming homeless, resulting in a reliance on B&Bs and hotels to meet the emergency accommodation needs of some of these families. Our clients continue to experience significant difficulties in trying to secure housing.
“Unfortunately, this situation was not helped by the decision of the Department of Social Protection last February to keep rent supplement cap limits at the same levels as they have been since June 2013. This was despite an annual increase in rent by in excess of 10% for Galway City,” she said.
COPE Chairman, John Concannon, said the increase in homeless families – including ‘hidden homeless’ – over the past year was of particular concern.
“The flow of families into homelessness in the past year has been especially concerning. COPE Galway Family Support services worked with an average of 57 families per month during 2014.
“The reasons for these presentations varied from those at risk of homelessness who needed support to retain their accommodation, to those who had lost their accommodation and needed emergency housing.
“While there was an increase in the numbers of families provided with emergency accommodation by COPE Galway – up from 19 in 2013 to 25 in 2014 – what was more notable was the period of time these families remained in emergency accommodation, averaging 60 nights in 2014 compared to 49 in 2013, due to delays in accessing affordable rental accommodation.
“Another notable trend has been the numbers of families who are ‘hidden homeless’. These are families who have lost their own housing and are involuntarily sharing with family and friends. On December 1, 2014, COPE Galway was aware of 17 families in Galway in this situation.
“The single greatest issue experienced by clients of our homeless services over the past year is difficulty accessing housing.
“Due to a shortage of social housing our clients are mainly reliant on the private rental market. A shortage of housing in this sector, combined with ever-increasing rents, has contributed to a situation where more and more families are becoming homeless, and where individuals and families who do become homeless remain so for longer as they cannot find affordable accommodation.
“This resulted in an average increase in length of stay in our emergency hostels from six weeks in 2013 to eight weeks in 2014,” said Mr Concannon.
A Moycullen win would add badly needed spice to football’s big day
Inside Track with John McIntyre
BEFORE a ball was kicked in this year’s Galway senior championship, the smart money would have been on champions Corofin, Tuam Stars, Salthill/Knocknacarra and Mountbellew/Moylough making it to the semi-finals if they managed to keep out of each other’s way on the road to the penultimate stage off the title race.
Unfortunately, for a Salthill team which, in any event, didn’t scale their expected heights this year, they came up against the champions in the quarter-finals where the Seasiders’ challenge was dismissed in convincing fashion. It was business as usual for Corofin who remain odds on to claim a record-breaking eighth consecutive title.
With Tuam Stars edging out Bearna after extra-time, a Paul Kelly goal helping Moycullen get the better of St James’, and Mountbellew/Moylough powering home against 14-man Killannin, it means that three of last year’s semi-finalists are back seeking a place in the Galway decider this weekend. Mountbellew/Moylough are the odd ones out having fallen to Corofin in the 2019 quarter-finals.
Val Daly’s troops will need the performance of the lives to overturn club’s football’s dominant power, especially as they continue to field without county player John Daly – a son of their manager. Of course, they are not without a chance and if the likes of Michael Daly, Matthew Barrett, Eoin Finnerty, Eoin Ryan and Barry McHugh hit the ground running, they could give Corofin a searching time.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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Greens see red on gold rush
Opposition is intensifying to the prospect of a licence being awarded to Canadian gold prospectors planning to explore the heart of Connemara.
Environmental campaigners have warned of the dangers of awarding a prospecting licence to Toronto-based MOAG to mine for gold and silver in land around Roundstone, Ballyconneely and Ballynahinch.
They claim the exploration could devastate water supplies, tourism, wildlife – and also led to tensions in the local community.
Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton has indicated he intends to grant a prospecting licence to the company to explore for the valuable minerals in townlands in Ballynahinch Barony.
The licence allows the holder to explore for mineral deposits, and does not authorise mining of any materials that are found – that requires further licensing.
And Minister Bruton’s Department insists that the activities permitted under this licence are “non-invasive” and “of minimal environmental impact”.
However, campaigners have warned of the dangers mining can have on Connemara, and have urged the public to object before July 6.
See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Controversial Ballinasloe landfill prepares for closure
The Galway dump that forced householders to close their windows during the hottest of summers will take in waste for the last time during the middle of this year.
The pong the emanated from the landfill site in Kilconnell will be no more as it will cease accepting waste by the end of June next year.
Ballinasloe area councillors were told how Galway County Council took over the running of the landfill site following the liquidation of the former operators Greenstar.
The Council agreed to accept 300,000 tons of municipal waste over a three-year period and this will come to an end by the middle of next year, after which the dump will be capped and closed the following year.
Director of Services Jim Cullen informed a meeting of Ballinasloe Municipal Council that following the closure of the dump, there would be long term care of the site to ensure that there would be no adverse environmental issues.
When Galway County Council took over the running of the landfill site, an allocation of €300,000 was provided by the Department of the Environment for local projects.
Of this, €120,000 has been given to the area engineer to spend at his discretion and the remaining €180,000 has been dispersed equally among the six Ballinasloe councillors – resulting in each getting €30,000 to spend on projects in their area.
It is expected that a further €300,000 will be allocated to organisations within a certain radius of the landfill site and a committee made up of Cllr Aidan Donohue (FG), Cllr Dermot Connolly (SF) and Cllr Timmy Broderick (Ind) to decide how this fund will be dispersed.
For years, the dump in Kilconnell caused annoyance for local residents because of the smells emanating from the site and many householders say that it is still a major problem.
Cllr Michael Finnerty warned about the possibility of a run-off of leachate – a liquid that drains from landfill sites that can cause pollution – from the site into the future.
He said that he attended a meeting in Ballinasloe in which residents expressed concern about a leachate run-off from the old dump in Poolboy which has been closed down for years.
He was assured by Mr Cullen that the situation in Poolboy was being continually monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency but he would investigate these claims.
With regard to the closure of the dump in Kilconnell, Cllr Aidan Donohue said that he was not convinced about the ongoing maintenance of the site into the future.
He said when the landfill site in New Inn was closed many years ago, the Council just walked away and left the site in an unacceptable state.
The Fine Gael councillor was referring to suggestions that the Kilconnell site might have future potential and may be an asset but he cited what happened in New Inn when he said that it was just abandoned.