A local charity which operates services for homeless people provided emergency accommodation for 44 adults and 22 children on one night at the start of this month.
COPE Galway also had contact with an additional 11 people who were sleeping rough in the city on that Monday night on October 6. A further two people reported that they slept in a squat.
“This is the reality as we face into the coming months,” says Martin O’Connor, the assistant CEO of COPE Galway.
He points out that a growing number of people are at risk of homelessness due to rising rent levels and a shortage of affordable private rented accommodation in the city.
“We have seen an ever increasing number of individuals and families at risk of and becoming homeless due to the inadequacies of the private rental market where rents are on the rise and sub-standard housing is very often the only option available to lower income households.”
He outlines the charity has reported an increase in the numbers seeking emergency accommodation at both its Fairgreen Hostel for homeless men and its Osterley Lodge service for women and children in Salthill.
“This, in combination with the shortage of affordable housing in Galway city, is contributing to a situation where there is an increase in the numbers of people rough sleeping and in families living in overcrowded situations with other family members and friends.”
COPE Galway provided emergency accommodation to 24 families during the first nine months of this year, according to Mr O’Connor. This compares with a total of 18 families for the whole of last year.
Many families living in private rented accommodation are getting notices to quit because of receivership sales or because they cannot afford the hikes in rent, he explains.
Some people are resorting to sleeping in squats. Up to eight people sleep rough some nights.
“We understand there are a couple of squats in operation, one is in pretty poor condition. We hear anecdotal reports that there are houses in the east side of the city which are being squatted but they do not come on to our radar.”
He says the charity is putting its Cold Weather Response in place to help homeless people during the winter months ahead.
“We are making provision for an additional nine beds - by making use of communal space - at the Fairgreen Hostel. Osterley Lodge for women is busier now than it used to be. Most nights it is full.”
Mr O’Connor’s comments come in the wake of Budget 2015. He welcomes the measures included which address social housing but warns of the need for immediate action.
“COPE Galway welcomes the announcement of an investment package of €2.2 billion to build 10,000 social housing units nationally over the next four years. Such investment in social housing is vital if the current shortage of housing for low income households is to be addressed. An extensive social housing programme is the best way in the longer term to address these issues.”
COPE also welcomes the announcement of an additional €10 million for accommodation and related services for homeless people in 2015 and hopes that Galway will receive a share of this to help address the ever increasing demand homeless services are experiencing in Galway.
However, Mr O’Connor says the absence of more immediate measures relating to the rent supplement cap limits and rent control measures in Budget 2015 is of concern.
“Today, tomorrow and for the coming weeks and months people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness will continue to need housing and will be looking to the private rented sector for this. Rent supplement cap limits need to be increased now so that low income households can compete in this market. Additionally some measures to control rents are necessary if the numbers at risk of becoming homeless due to rising housing costs are not to increase further.”