According to social services charity Cope, on any given night in Galway, there are fifty families classified as ‘homeless’ – including as many as one hundred children.
We have a housing emergency in this country which is being ignored by those in Government. Three homeless people died this summer and surely, with winter approaching, those numbers will rise.
Figures released by the Central Statistic’s Office (CSO) have shown that while 180,000 homes are currently vacant, there are a total of 7,421 people homeless in Ireland – 2,546 of these being children. The numbers don’t add up!
According to the housing minister Simon Coveney, “We have fundamental structural problems in our housing structure and that is why the state has committed €5.5bn to social housing.” Mr. Coveney added that “people can’t expect it to be solved overnight.”
That is all well and good and a great sound bite, but in the meantime people are homeless, mainly due to being priced out of the market. When demand outstrips supply, prices rise.
We are also seeing a significant impact on the student population, both in Galway and nationwide. According to SIN, the student run NUI Galway newspaper, 1 in 6 students are currently without accommodation.
NAMA has recently been charged with releasing properties for social housing but this seems to be taking an inordinate amount of time. They appear to have been holding on to their property portfolio, waiting for prices to rise without any consideration of the wider implications for society.
The NAMA website is public (see link below). You can type in a county and read about the large number of properties they hold in that county. I fail to understand why these cannot be utilised as suitable housing in some form or other. If they need repairs, then carry out the repairs and give the vulnerable in society some self-respect and dignity so they can finally move on with their lives.
Sitting on empty properties in the hope that they gain value, while people literally die on our streets, is immoral. I can appreciate that the government needs to make some financial gains, but that can be achieved through the business assets they own, not just the residential. Government is not just a money-making exercise but should equally focus on protecting the people. Winter is coming and the streets are no place for people to be sleeping. Nor is ‘temporary’ hotel accommodation suitable for families with children often living without cooking facilities in their room.
The housing situation in this country needs a proactive and a lasting solution and the sooner the better.