Recession will see rise in number of Galway homeless

Marlene O’Connor

Marlene O’Connor

The head of the Galway Simon Community has warned that unless there is State investment in vital services and responses the number of people sleeping rough will rise dramatically in the coming months.

Marlene O’Connor, the chief executive of the local organisation, says the economic downturn will result in more people being at risk of homelessness and more becoming homeless.

She told the Galway Advertiser that its effects are evident at the Simon Community’s day centre. It helps people from 45 different countries.

“This places an additional demand burden on the already stretched resources of the organisation, not least because many of these individuals and families are not entitled to State help because of their residency status. Ninety-one families with a total of 222 children were provided with services since the day centre opened in May 2007.”

She says the organisation provided nine additional residential places over the past 18 months and helped an additional eight people to move on from the resettlement service during the same period. This brought to 60 the number of people being provided with supported residential services in the city.

A tenancy support service was provided to 37 people which is indicative of the progress made by individuals who have successfully moved on from crisis and begun to put their lives back together again, she says. This service enables individuals and families to maintain their tenancies and not revert to homelessness.

“This was done in the face of cut backs in State funding and in a situation where the 2008 funding for some of its services is still being negotiated.

“We are managing to maintain current levels of service provision but have a serious concern that unless there is State investment in vital services and responses the number of people sleeping rough will increase dramatically over the coming months. It cannot be forgotten that on one night last March a count found that 15 people were sleeping rough in the city whilst all the emergency services and the Cold Weather Initiative was full to capacity.”

Ms O’Connor is appealing to the Government and the local community which Galway Simon Community serves, to support its endeavours.

“We need additional financial support from the public at this time and we need politicians to impress strongly on the Taoiseach and the Department of Finance of the need to fund the real costs of providing services and make provision for the need to be responsive to new and emerging needs.”

People can make a donation to Galway Simon Community through its website www.galwaysimon.ie or by telephoning Kerry at (091 ) 589415 or by supporting its fundraising activities and its shop at 18 Sea Road.

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