North West Simon Community says the high volume of holidaymakers visiting Donegal, Sligo, and Leitrim at present, has created a new challenge for homeless services in the region.


Noel Daly, General Manager of North West Simon Community was commenting following publication of the Monthly Homelessness Report, which shows that 93 individuals accessed Local Authority managed emergency accommodation in the North West Region during the Week of 19 to 25 July 2021. Among the 78 households accommodated were 8 families comprised of 9 adults and 16 children, and 70 single adults. North West Simon Community, points out that these homeless figures only relate to households that have been approved for social housing support by the local authorities. They do not include households frequently described as the “hidden homeless” that may be sleeping rough, living in refuges, staying with parents, relatives or friends in overcrowded conditions, those who have not been approved for support by their local authority, or been unable to access emergency accommodation.


The majority of the households (71%) were provided with either Private Emergency Accommodation with visiting support or Temporary Emergency Accommodation with no (or minimal) support. Supported Temporary accommodation with onsite professional support was provided to 29% of the households. This latest statistic means that the average number of people accommodated in emergency accommodation in the North West during a single week has increased from 43.3 in 2016 to 91.2 in 2021, and may be seen as a strong indicator that national homelessness policy is not getting us closer to ending homelessness in the region, Mr Daly said.


Mr Daly explained that there are at best 60 Emergency Beds available in the largely rural North West region, and services depend on the availability of spare capacity in local B&B’s, Hotels, and Tourist Hostels for emergency accommodation, particularly outside of Sligo Town, and Letterkenny. The tourism industry is currently experiencing a welcome surge in staycations after the pandemic lockdown, but unfortunately this means there are very few beds available for use as temporary emergency accommodation. An online search carried out by North West Simon Community on August 27th, – the day the latest statistics were published – identified 6 hotels or B&Bs able accommodate an adult and two children, and 11 properties with room for a single adult, across the three counties. For those who cannot move in with parents, family or friends, or safely remain where they currently reside, requesting emergency accommodation from their local authority is the best remaining option, and that facility is currently in very short supply, Noel Daly said. This current severe shortage of emergency accommodation adds yet another layer to the challenge that Local Authorities and Voluntary Homeless service providers face in the North West.


Noel Daly says that ending the current homelessness crisis requires an adequate supply of housing, available to rent at an affordable price, and right now the North West Region doesn’t have either. The latest Social Housing Assessment records that the number of qualified households whose current tenure is living with parents, or relatives and friends, in the North West region, increased from 594 in June 2019 to 709 in November 2020.  The Social Housing Assessment identified 75 extra households living with parents and 40 additional households living with family or friends in the three counties. Overall, the North West region accounted for just under one third of the national change in current tenure of qualified households recorded. Meanwhile, the assessment also identified that the number of households in the North West, whose current tenure was described as Private Rented accommodation had dropped by 113, during the same period. Moving from rented accommodation to sharing with family and friends is recognised as a common pathway followed by households who ultimately experience homelessness. It seems clear from the “Summary of Social Housing Assessments 2020” that the “lack of affordable housing in the private rented sector” is having a very direct impact on the current tenure of qualified households in the North West region.


When the Government publishes its new Housing Strategy later this week, implementation must commence immediately to deliver the secure housing that people at risk or experiencing homelessness in the North West region urgently require.