February 8th 2020 – Election Day! As you review the ballot paper and decide who to give your number one and various other preferences to, think about those in our society and in our community here in Galway for whom this election needs to make a very real difference; for whom the outcome will help determine when they will have a place to call home.
I am of course talking about families and individuals who are homeless; who don’t have a door on which canvassers can knock over the course of this election campaign. In 2019, here in Galway, COPE Galway worked with on average 90 families – including up to 200 children and 80 single people (that’s over 400 men, women and children) – living in emergency accommodation each night. There were also 30 or more men and women sleeping rough on our streets on some nights.
These numbers and the people behind them are the embodiment of arguably the single greatest challenge we face as a country and as a society as we head into the third decade of the 21st century – not having a place to live, to call home. Nowadays we see the effects of this ‘housing crisis’ creep closer as ever more of us experience its impact. We see high rents which are out of reach of many. We see home ownership becoming a less and less likely possibility for young families. We see two- and three- generations of a family living under the one roof, with little prospect of this changing any day soon. All of these contribute to a growing number who are at a very real risk of not having a place to call home.
As you stand, pen in hand in your polling booth and review your ballot paper, think carefully about the difference you want this election to make for those without a home. Think carefully about the opportunity you have to help shape that difference; to help ensure that real and effective measures to address the housing shortage and homelessness crisis – which is having such a negative and damaging impact on the lives of so many of your fellow citizens and on our community – are central to what our next Government will do.
COPE Galway has written to candidates across Galway asking for:
- A constitutional referendum to enshrine the right to housing into the constitution to protect the right to decent, secure and affordable housing for all.
- The construction of new social housing as the response to meeting the housing needs of those who cannot afford a home of their own and cease the reliance on private rented housing for those in need of social housing.
- Protect those who are living in private rented housing; enforce and further extend rent pressure zones so that those who need to live in private rented accommodation have their tenancy rights fully protected, with affordable rents.
Without these measures, there is a very real risk that this crisis will persist and the lives of many more people – most especially children – will be blighted by the experience of homelessness.
Be careful how you vote. Finding a solution to the homeless crisis means informed voting on February 8. Don’t leave it until another General Election in four or five years from now, when homelessness could be touching our own lives in a way we thought could never happen.
COPE Galway has prepared a detailed proposal titled ‘General Election 2020 – Addressing inequalities in our society – COPE Galway’s position’.
Martin O’Connor is Assistant Chief Executive Officer at COPE Galway, a local Galway Organisation whose vision is an “Improved Quality of Life in a Home of your Own” for people affected by homelessness, women and children experiencing domestic abuse, and older people.
Contact: Martin O’Connor 091 778 750
Note to Editor:
COPE Galway is a local Galway Organisation whose vision is an “Improved Quality of Life in a Home of your Own” for people affected by homelessness, women and children experiencing domestic abuse, and older people.
Our services for people who are homeless worked with 1,406 people in 2018; there are currently over 10,000 people homeless and living in emergency accommodation across our country.
In 2018 we worked with 457 women and their children in Galway who experienced domestic abuse; nationally 1,138 women and 1,667 children were provided with safe refuge in the same year.
We support over 700 older people each year, many living in isolation in our communities who are barely getting by and for whom our health and community services are so vital.