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Mayo homelessness up 560 percent in less than four years


Ger Flanagan

MAYO saw the largest jump in the number of homeless people across the Western region with a huge 560 percent increase from March 2016 to August 2019.
Tom Gilligan, Director of Services for Mayo County Council, made the stark revelation at last week’s Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) meeting on housing in Castlebar, when discussing the Draft West Region Homelessness Action Plan 2020-2022.
He said that local authorities in the west have been advised to adopt the new regional draft plan, which is being led by Galway City Council.
Mr Gilligan said homelessness is a ‘very complex issue’ and can occur for ‘many complex reasons’, but that it is becoming ‘more and more of an issue’ in Mayo.
Head of Housing for Mayo County Council, Simon Shevlin, told the meeting that there were 138 homeless presentations in Mayo from January to October this year alone. He said that a big issue within the county right now is that there are so few houses on the rental market available for people in difficult situations.
Cllr Michael Kilcoyne (Ind) raised a concern over private landlords abusing their rights to end a tenancy by claiming that a family member wants to use the property.
“Landlords can say that they are giving the house to a member of their family and then three months down the road they can say that the family member doesn’t want it,” he said. “Then they well re-advertise [the vacated property] for twice the rent. It is abuse of the right… and it is pure greed.”
Tom Gilligan agreed that more rental properties are needed.
Clly Kilcoyne added that Co Mayo needs ‘some kind of hostel in each town’, hostels that ‘perhaps could be run by the Simon Community’. “It’s terrible to hear of someone sleeping under the bridge [in Castebar], and there is,” he said.
During the meeting, concerns were also raised about the challenges facing families who are in emergency accommodation, as well as about accessibility to family resource centres for the most vulnerable.
Cllr John Caulfield (FF) aired concerns that there is ‘nothing available’ to families when they leave these resource centres, saying they are ‘thrown to the wolves’. He called on the municipal district to try to come up with a plan to help the most vulnerable in those situations.
Tom Gilligan said it was a ‘harrowing’ experience for anyone to present themselves as homeless, and complimented the ‘sterling’ work already being done in the town by the homeless services.