Homelessness and housing charity Galway Simon Community has expressed concerns about the number of people at risk of homelessness throughout 2021.
The charity said that over half of those supported by the charity this year were at risk of homelessness, staying in “very precarious situations” including temporary accommodation and insecure or unaffordable housing in the private rental market.
The vast majority of these households are not included in the monthly homelessness figures, the charity said.
As lockdowns and the moratorium on evictions lifted throughout the year, Galway Simon Community saw a significant increase in the number of families and individuals at risk of homelessness, with their latest figures showing a 35% increase in the number of people supported through their Homelessness Prevention Services alone compared to last year.
Karen Golden, CEO of Galway Simon Community, said the charity’s prevention work has never been so important.
“2021 was another extremely challenging year for Galway Simon Community. With the easing of Covid restrictions, we expected to see an increase in homelessness,” said Karen.
“However, the reality has been even more stark than anticipated. With the ongoing shortage of housing and increases in average rents, people who receive a notice to quit (NTQ) are finding it extremely difficult to find alternative secure and affordable accommodation.
“Throughout the year, we saw increasing pressure across our services, and in particular our Homelessness Prevention Services, due to the increasing number of people at risk of homelessness.”
Karen said that the impact of the housing crisis, combined with the Covid-19 pandemic, has created incredibly challenging circumstances in the West. More people than ever before, including those who never thought they would need our support, are turning to Galway Simon Community for help.”
Despite the challenges in 2021, Galway Simon’s frontline services provided extensive support to people facing homelessness.
The charity’s teams supported 100 individuals and families to find and resettle into new homes, and many more were prevented from having to access emergency accommodation or homeless services.
Galway Simon also responded to the increasing number of young adults at risk of and experiencing homelessness, supporting 33% more 18-25 year olds than in the previous year.
“Throughout 2021, we continued our work to prevent homelessness in our community. This is particularly crucial with young adults as providing holistic and targeted supports at this influential stage in their lives can help to prevent entrenched or cyclical homelessness later,” Karen added.
In addition to its prevention work, Galway Simon Community also provided Emergency, Transitional Accommodation and Supported Housing in 2021. The charity provided shelter and accommodation for 169 households to the end of November.
Paying tribute to those who supported the organisation in 2021, Karen Golden said that “none of our work would have been possible without our incredibly kind supporters and volunteers.”
“The support we received from across the West and beyond in 2021 was deeply appreciated.
“We would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to those who supported Galway Simon Community in 2021 and helped us to prevent people from experiencing the trauma of homelessness.”
Karen said that they deliver their services recognising that the lack of a home is an ordeal for people, and this makes it really difficult to thrive as a person.
This in turn has such negative knock on effects for people’s health and well-being, she said.
“Where it is families with young children, the knock on effects can last for years. It is really important to do everything possible to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.
“To the end of November Galway Simon had supported 789 households, made up of 917 adults and 551 children. As we come to the end of another extremely difficult year and look forward to 2022, we remain very concerned about the combined effects that the housing and homelessness crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic are continuing to have on people across the West of Ireland.
“Homelessness is a serious issue that has a devastating impact on people in our community.
“Our teams at Galway Simon will remain focused on preventing as many people as possible from experiencing the trauma of homelessness and working towards our vision where everyone has a place to call home.”