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Man arrested following a seizure of cocaine worth €60,000 in Tuam. – Connacht Grandstand – Galway City Grandstand:

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The easing of Covid-19 restrictions – including lifting the moratorium on evictions and worsening housing crisis – has seen the Galway Simon Community support more people at risk and experiencing homelessness than ever before.

The charity saw a massive 26% increase last year in the number of households supported compared to 2020, according to its 2021 Annual Impact Report, launched this week by Minister of State Joe O’Brien .

Galway Simon Community CEO Karen Golden revealed she supported 814 unique households last year, including 246 families, with 563 children.

And as she welcomed the 364 new social housing units delivered in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon in 2021, she also warned that demand continues to far outstrip supply with 4,052 households on waiting lists for accommodation social.

She further pointed out that as rents continue to rise and more landlords leave the rental market, there are fewer properties available for rent.

All of this, she said, has been further compounded by the rising cost of living which has left many people who would never have seen themselves accessing homeless services, turning to Galway Simon for acquire help.

In total, she revealed, the charity supported 1,511 people through its homelessness prevention and housing services last year. The annual report also revealed that the number of young people aged 18 to 25 cared for in Simon’s services increased by 25% in 2021 compared to 2020.

“Our teams are stretched harder than ever, but we continue to do everything we can to support people for as long as they need us,” Ms Golden said.

“In 2021, we provided homeless supports and 4,745 nights in emergency beds. We established new Housing First rentals in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.

“We have expanded our youth service residential places from eight to twelve, and have acquired our first properties to provide rentals to care leavers. More than 90% of those who accessed our city prevention service did not enter emergency accommodation. 37,084 meals were provided in our services, she added.

Minister O’Brien acknowledged that increasing homelessness “is a serious concern for the government and is being actively addressed.”

And he said increasing the supply of social housing and residential accommodation is key to eradicating homelessness.

“Currently, public investment of more than €4 billion a year in housing is aimed at increasing supply and the Housing for All plan is starting to take hold and make improvements,” he said.

Galway CEO Simon acknowledged the incredible support that has been provided by the charity’s funders, donors and supporters in 2021.

She also thanked all the volunteers who have made such an extraordinary contribution to the work of Galway Simon Community over the past year and who are an integral part of the community.

But she warned that teams at Galway Simon were deeply concerned about the winter ahead.

She called on the government to prioritize measures in the budget to mitigate the risks of food and energy poverty, and the risks of homelessness, this winter.

(Pictured: Galway Simon Community Karen Feeney and CEO Karen Golden with Minister of State for Community Development and Charities Joe O’Brien at the launch of the Galway Simon Community Annual Impact Report).