Galway charities say homeless at risk from coronavirus

By Robyn Kilroy

Charities in Galway say that coronavirus is putting more pressure on those who are struggling under the housing crisis.

Karina Timothy of Threshold Galway said the housing advocacy group have received a handful of queries regarding coronavirus. She said one tenant came to them after returning from Italy on their holidays.

“Their flatmates did not want him to return to the house,” she said. “And then the landlord got involved and said he was not moving back.”

Timothy also said that another woman was concerned as her husband was trapped in China and was unable to pay rent without him.

“The queries we have received are mainly to do with money, from people who have no stable employment or income, or who do not get sick leave,” said Timothy. “If this prolongs, we’ll get more queries.”

Assistant CEO of COPE Galway Martin O’Connor said that they are aware of the risk the virus poses to the homeless community.

“We are acutely aware of the risks COVID-19 represents for people who are homeless,” he said. “A far higher proportion of people who are homeless have underlying health conditions compared to the general population and this places them among the at-risk cohorts health authorities are especially concerned about.”

Mr O’Connor also said that provisions are being put in place to protect Galway’s homeless community.

“We are taking every precaution to safeguard people against contracting the virus and working in close cooperation with the HSE and Galway City Council to ensure that the needs of people who are homeless are provided for.”

“This includes making provisions for self-isolation should people living in our emergency accommodation be advised to do so.”

CEO of Galway Simon Community, Karen Golden, said that the Simon Community are following HSE guidelines, as well as measures they already follow.

The guidelines issued by the HSE for homeless services include supplying tissues and hand sanitisers outside gathering areas, disposal bins for tissues, and ensuring all frequently touched surfaces are cleaned regularly. The HSE also advises services to plan for dealing with individuals who become ill with symptoms.

According to Focus Ireland’s latest figures, there are 313 adults in emergency accommodation in Galway while 3,148 households in the county are on the social housing waiting list.

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