Family homelessness in Galway and the West is increasing at a speed that is four times the rate of the increase nationally.
The latest figures for families living in emergency accommodation are ‘frightening’ according to Galway Simon Community, which has urged Government to “wake up to the reality” and build more social housing.
Another charity, COPE Galway, said the homelessness situation is in danger of getting “out of control”, as it too called for more social housing to be built.
The latest statistics reveal number of people in emergency accommodation nationally increased from 7,699 in May 2017 to 9,846 in May 2018, an increase of 28%.
Over the same period, the number of people in emergency accommodation in the West increased from 250 to 514, an increase of 106% – the numbers more than doubled in the year and increased at nearly four times the rate of increase nationally. During that time, the number of dependents in emergency homeless accommodation in the West increased from 59 to 233, just shy of a fourfold increase.
The figures for May 2018 show that in just one year, an additional 63 families and 174 children are in emergency accommodation in the West of Ireland with the majority of those in Galway. This represents an increase of 77% in family homelessness.
The West’s figures include Galway, Mayo and Roscommon but the problem is most acute in Galway. In the West, there are 281 adults, 252 of whom are in Galway, and 233 children with no place to call home.
Not included in the stats are rough sleepers, or the ‘hidden homeless’, which are people who have been issued with notices to quit and who are ‘doubling-up’ and living with family and friends and temporarily couch surfing until they find alternatives.
Karen Golden, CEO of Galway Simon Community said the Government needs to wake up to the reality of the situation and start taking it seriously.
“Month after month, the number in emergency accommodation is steadily increasing. In Galway the emergency shelters and homes run by Galway Simon and COPE are at breaking point, meaning that hundreds of other individuals and families are forced to live in hotels, B&Bs and tourist hostels. It’s an absolute tragedy,” she said.
Under the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland plan, Galway City Council has been set a target by Minister Eoghan Murphy to deliver 399 additional housing units this year. Of these, some 96 homes are supposed to be new builds but it has been widely acknowledged that the Council is on course to deliver just 14 new builds in 2018.
Ms Golden said the Government’s Rent Pressure Zones – a policy that capped rent increases in Galway City at 4% per annum – are “absolutely not working”.
Rents have increased by 12.4% in the past year, three times the rent zone rate, she said.
This is explained due to a phenomenon referred to as ‘renovictions’, whereby landlords issue notices to quit in order to do up their properties and they bring them back, refurbished, at a much higher rent.
Ms Golden said all of the problems stem from a lack of housing supply. “We want to see more houses developed. What’s causing all of this is a lack of supply. We need to increase the supply of housing and ideally we want to have Councils develop more social housing,” she added.
These sentiments were echoed by Martin O’Connor of Cope Galway.
“The shortage of rental housing continues to be acute in Galway and rents continue to increase. This could get out of control very easily despite everyone’s best intentions and efforts. Additional social housing is the only solution . . . but the pace at which this is progressing is too slow and the number of homes being developed – 240 between now and 2020 in Galway City – is too little,” he said.
“Being homeless is an enormously stressful and damaging experience. Speeding up the delivery of much needed social housing, so that those without a home are provided for, has to be a priority for all at this time.”
Locals in fundraising drive to protect some of Connemara’s finest beauty spots
The world-famous beaches Gurteen Bay and Dogs Bay will disappear unless work is carried out immediately to save them for the next generation.
A local conservation committee has been set up which is fundraising to carry out the work in September. They plan to remove the old fencing from the headland, which is dangerous for people and animals.
They will also want to install new fencing on the headland to keep animals off the sand dunes and to have clear access pathways to people to enjoy the dunes without causing them damage.
Sustainable chestnut fencing is then needed to re-establish the sand dunes and to save them from further collapse.
Finally the hope to replant marram grass to further stabalise the dunes.
Kieran Mullen, owner of the Gurteen Bay caravan and camping park, explained that the work was so urgent that they cannot wait another year to carry it out.
“Atlantic storms are becoming more frequent and powerful. If they find a weakness in the dunes a one metre gap is created. The next storm that widens to two and three metres and soon they’re gone forever,” he remarked.
“I know people might say I’m doing this because they’re part of my livelihood but these beaches are key to the bigger economy of Connemara. Everyone’s tied into tourism here – the shops, the builders. It only takes one influencer to post a picture on Instagram and the next week the place is packed.”
His father Pat, along with James Conneely and Joe Rafferty, undertook extensive projects such as planting marram grass, erecting fencing and stone gabions along one section of Dogs Bay beach back in the 1990s. They managed to protect and regenerate part of a highly degraded dune system.
“If it wasn’t for the huge amount of work they did back then, the beaches wouldn’t be here today. There was an Italian electrical company who came in and took away 50 tonnes of sand and my father stopped them at the gate and made them drop it off.
“They filmed Into The West here and the film donated some money to the beach and that’s how they paid for a lot of the work.”
The committee is meeting with planners to secure an exemption on planning for the work.
“Time is not on our side so that’s why we’ve gone ahead to raise the money and hope to get it done in September when the place is quieter.”
Both beaches, located outside Roundstone, regularly make the list of top 100 beaches of the world by travel guides.
To make a donation, visit GoFundMe page.
Galway passengers are all smiles at Shannon!
The smiles on the faces at Shannon Airport very much told its own story this week – with passengers taking to skies as the easing of restrictions and the first day of the European Digital COVID Certificates took effect.
And it wasn’t just the joy of travel starting to resume that lifted spirits at the airport but also the announcement by Ryanair of a new once-weekly service to Gran Canaria (Las Palmas) to commence on August 7 – the third new service announcement for Shannon Airport over recent weeks.
There was a real sense of excitement as passengers of all ages became very much at ease with the heightened public safety measures in a ‘back-to-the-future’ day for the West of Ireland gateway airport.
There were reunions as inbound flights arrived but also a palpable degree of anticipation as others got set to depart on the earliest flight out of the airport today, the 7:10am flight to Gatwick.
Among those boarding was Clarenbridge native Claire Tomlin and her husband Jake, together with their three children, including their twins who turn a year old next week.
“It’s been amazing to get back. The kids saw their grandparents for the first time and their cousins and aunties and uncles, so it was fantastic,” said Claire.
“Shannon is just so convenient for us because it’s only about 40 minutes’ drive. So, it just makes everything a lot easier in terms of getting to and from places with little ones. So, yeah, Shannon is a great resource for us. Really, really good. We hope to be able to go back more and more.”
It was smiles all around for Shannon Airport staff as they got back to doing what they do best. “Well, today is a great day because you can see the atmosphere around the place, people are at ease here and they’re glad to be back, they’re glad to get up in the sky again,” said Shannon Duty Free Sales Associate Helen Quinlivan.
“It’s great to see the excitement. People are really looking forward to going back and seeing their loved ones and they’re very at ease.”
Galway In Days Gone By
Silence is golden
Leaders on both sides have stated that the best assistance the country can give in the making of peace is to keep silence.
During the past week there has been a great deal of speculation, most of it harmless enough, as, for instance, the enterprising American journalist’s “exclusive” on the first meeting of the British Premier and the President of the Irish Republic; much of it positively mischievous, as the case of the efforts of a certain journal, which has grown hoary in the reputation for throwing in the apple of discord, to anticipate failure in advance.
Our American colleague was on surer and on safer ground when he told of how de Valera and Lloyd George met.
“Mr. Lloyd George,” he cabled, “was sitting at his desk when the Irish President entered. For just a minute these two gazed fixedly at one another. Then the British Premier walked across the intervening space and shook de Valera by the hand. He led him to a seat where they sat side by side. The atmosphere was tense. They faced one another. Then Lloyd George reached down for a box of cigars. But the Irish President is of Spartan mould. He neither permits himself to drink nor smoke. He politely but firmly waved the box away. Mr. Lloyd George, however, selected and lighted a Havana, and as the smoke curled upwards the atmosphere became decidedly easier!”
The wise and practical man always lays by a store against the time when supplies will be scarce. One of the most serious effects of the prolonged drought is the scarcity of supplies of fodder for cattle-feeding during the coming winter and spring.
The hay crop is not more than half the average yield. The corn crop is far below normal. Turnips in many districts are a partial failure. We have frequently emphasised the importance of growing catch-crops to supplement other feeding stuffs raised on the farm, but it is only under circumstances such as the present that their utility is brought home to farmers. Owing to the early harvest, a larger area than is usual can and should be put down this season. This would make good, to some extent, at least, the shortage of hay and other feeding-stuffs.
The demonstration plots laid down by the County Committee of Agriculture have shown that catch-crops, such as vetches and rye as well as other mixtures, can be successfully grown in all parts of County Galway.
We would urge on farmers the desirability – nay, the necessity – of procuring seed and making early preparation for the sowing of an increased area of catch-crops this season.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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