It’s early January and we’re going through a few weeks of almost eerily crisp weather.
This day last year was quite different. Eye News released ‘Michael’ a mini-documentary shot on the streets of Galway on the night of the 2nd of January, just after Storm Eleanor hit the west coast of Ireland.
Winds of 140 km/hr hit the coastline. Quay Street in Galway was awash as the flood waters rose up to loosen the cobbles on the street. Then, a warning by Met Éireann communicated that a further high tide in the early hours of the morning could cause further damage. The emergency services were stretched to the limit and those in houses were bombarded by constant news updates and footage online highlighting the seriousness of the situation.
That was the night I met ‘Michael.’ Sleeping in a doorway, he hadn’t heard about the pending floods. I brought him home with me, gave him food and shelter. He ate because he was frozen, wet and starving.
Yesterday, I asked current Mayor of Galway City, Niall McNelis his thoughts on the homelessness crisis in Galway 12 months on from the documentary:
“We have to try harder. We have to get more houses built. The money is there but it takes too long to get planning over the line when ‘not in my back yard’ is used as an objection. I am working against the rise of short term letting systems such as those on Airbnb-type platforms that have taken too many houses and apartments out of the market. More also needs to be done to ensure tenants know their rights.”
I’ve met Michael a couple of times since last year. He is surviving but not without being desperate for further handouts at times and tip-toeing around moral decisions to simply exist.
Though he may feel it, he is not alone. In June 2018, it was reported that the number of homeless people in Ireland had risen by 200 in the previous month. At that time, there were 9,846 homeless people living in shelters or temporary hotels throughout Ireland.
During the week of 19 – 25 November 2018 it was reported that there were 6,157 adults homeless and a further 3,811 young family members without a place to live. The combined figure meant by the end of 2018 the amount of homeless in this country was not far off 10,000 people.
So, in 2018 more people became homeless but the country sustained 12 solid months of positive economic growth.
Astonishingly, in the past 24 hours, former chair of the Housing Agency, Conor Skehan, claimed that homelessness in Ireland is now relatively ‘normal’ compared to our European neighbours. How can even a single homeless person be described as normal? Skehan went on to say that the homeless charities, tasked with alleviating the problems on the ground, are simply not spending their government funding as efficiently as they might.
Still, as Leo said a few days ago in the face of economic uncertainty associated with the pending Brexit fiasco:
“No one will go hungry”
Sure, it’s grand so! Isn’t it?
Here is Part 1 of the documentary about ‘Michael’ from one year ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zZ-WW7MMNA