COPE Galway asks election candidates to join homelessness pledge

Galway Daily news COPE Galway extremely worried at record homelessness levels

COPE Galway is calling on candidates for the city and county councils to sign up to a pledge to tackle homelessness and improve social housing.

The pledge calls on all candidates in the upcoming local elections to: Meet housing targets by building new social housing, ensure an adequate and suitable response to homelessness, and encourage age-appropriate social housing options.

The local charity is encouraging the people of Galway to speak to their candidates about this crisis and encourage them to sign up to the pledge.

“Many of those with whom we currently work, who are in emergency accommodation today, were canvassed on the door steps of their own homes in 2014,” said COPE Galway CEO Martin O’Connor.

“They didn’t know how much their circumstances were going to change before the next opportunity came up to ask those running for our councils to address a most basic requirement: having a place to call home.”

There are currently 3,547 households on waiting lists for social housing across the city and county councils.

Of those, 1,600 have been waiting more than five years for housing.

COPE has said that there is an urgent need for an uptick in the amount of social housing being built to get Galway away from its reliance on the private rental sector.

The charity said that the Housing Assistance Payment is not a sustainable way to deliver on social housing needs.

“Social Housing builds provide security of tenure; HAP does not, as landlords can still end tenancies, leaving households in precarious situations and at a very real risk of homelessness”, said Mr O’Connor.

“We are asking candidates here in Galway to pledge that they will, if elected, work to ensure that their council increases its supply of social housing through building”.

COPE Galway points to research from March 2018 to illustrate the insecure nature of HAP for people who are in need of long-term housing.

The research showed that 5,938 households nationally had left the HAP scheme, of which 1,612 were as a result of landlords exiting the scheme.

The charity also highlighted that the people accessing homelessness services are not a homogeneous group with one solution fitting everyone.

“We are seeing increasing numbers of all family types and age cohorts including young adults and older people presenting as homeless, many with a range of different vulnerabilities, health and support needs and requiring suitable service responses, which are not always available”, explained Mr O’Connor.

He added that they are seeing an increasing number of people in the 45 to 54 year old age cohort who are facing challenges in the rental accommodation due to rising rents and insecurity of tenure.

According to Mr O’Connor, of those on social housing waiting lists in Galway 384 are over 60 years old.

“At the other end of the age scale, an increasing number of younger people are becoming homeless or are continuing to live with a parent due to the shortage of adequate age appropriate housing.”

“Again, this needs to be addressed now and we are calling on those seeking to be elected to our local authorities to give an undertaking to do this if elected”.