The June homeless figures released recently show that the number of people homeless in Galway is at its worst ever in recent history, with 189 adults homeless.
Reacting to the numbers, Social Democrats Galway representative Niall Ó Tuathail said: “These numbers are shocking but unfortunately neither surprising nor unpredictable. The population of Galway is growing very quickly and we aren’t even building enough homes to keep up with that growth, let alone eat into the current shortage. Most of the safety nets that protected people from street homelessness are used up – that’s things like emergency accommodation, people sleeping on friends’ couches, divorced couples continuing to live together. From now on, bigger shortages of housing will mean even more street homelessness. I truly hope I am wrong, but I think this situation is going to get much worse and we will have an even worse humanitarian crisis on our hands soon.”
Commenting on solutions, Ó Tuathail said: “The only long-term solution is to build more affordable housing in Galway. One way to do it is for Government to raise a big fund to directly invest in housing. That will solve the crisis and be positive for the state’s finances. We could sell most of the homes at an affordable cost to families and long-term rental companies, paying back the majority of the fund. The remaining homes could be used for social housing, with the rent paid by tenants covering the cost of interest. For this to happen, we need government to go beyond relying on developers for new housing projects, and the local authorities to treat this as an emergency and speed up new building programmes.”
Recognising that new homes will take time to build, Ó Tuathail argues that some short-term solutions can help, including those where Galwegians can directly help: “While we wait for new homes to be built, there are things that we can do. Our emergency housing services, like those provided by COPE Galway, are at breaking point. Government should be increasing funding, and I would encourage anyone who can to donate to organisations like COPE to allow them to do more. If anyone has an empty house that needs renovations before renting out, it is possible to get government funding under the Repair and Lease scheme. Galwegians can also rent out spare rooms to students tax-free under the rent a room scheme. If anyone has any questions about these programmes, we in the Social Democrats would be happy to help.”