People are being “trapped” in homeless service because of the lack of affordable housing, according to Galway Simon Community.
The homeless charity says because of the housing crisis clients who are ready to move into independent living are unable to do so.
The organisation currently accommodates 73 people in its housing services which are located throughout the city and provides varying levels of staff support. Some 43 per cent of the people living in these services are ready to move into independent living but cannot do this because of the lack of affordable housing.
Emma Dolan, the head of client services at Galway Simon Community, said the worsening housing crisis is preventing its clients from progressing into independent living.
“Our staff work with our clients to develop their life skills and to enable them to move into independent living when it’s appropriate for them.
“We currently have 32 people who are ready to make the move into independent living but they are trapped in our services as there are no options available for them to move out. The rising rents in the private sector, paired with the fact that rent supplements and Housing Assistance Payments (HAP ) have remained unchanged since 2013, means that rent has become unaffordable for our clients and many more.”
She stresses that the gap between rent and rent supplement/HAP is far too high for people living on social welfare incomes. They simply cannot afford it, she says.
“One of our supported houses, our resettlement house, aims to move people into independent living within six months to a year. However, the lack of affordable housing available to our clients has meant that this move-on process has slowed down and come to a standstill for the most part.”
She cites an example of a client called Conor (not his real name ), a young man who has been living in Simon’s resettlement house for the past 18 months. He needed a safe place to stay and support to get his life back on track.
“I’ve had a lot of mental health problems in the past - anxiety and things like that,” he says. “The doctor put me on prescription medication to help me, but I got addicted to them because they blocked out the anxiety. And that led to other, harder drugs.”
He has made major changes in his life since he got involved with the Simon Community. He no longer takes drugs, he has given up alcohol and smoking too; and he exercises at least four times a week. Today he is a much healthier person.
“I’ve got an addictive personality, but for the first time in my life, I’ve learnt here how to use it to work for me. I’ve taken up training and I go to the gym at least four times a week. Being active and healthy really helps with my anxiety. I feel optimistic about my future and I have some goals for myself – to stay clean, to get a job and to have a place of my own, a home.”
Ms Dolan says he has worked very hard since coming to its service and is now ready to move into his own home.
“Our staff has been working with Conor over the last number of months to try and source affordable housing for him but the current rental market has made this an impossible task. We will continue to seek housing for Conor and in the meantime he will have a safe place to stay.”
In addition to the 73 people currently living in Galway Simon’s supported housing services, the charity also works with more than 130 others at any one time providing them with housing and support.