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Dublin: 14°C Wednesday 10 August 2022

'Stop letting us down': Messages for the next government from Galway and Limerick's homeless community

Yesterday we shared views from people in Dublin experiencing homelessness – now it’s time to look outside the capital.

AHEAD OF THE election this weekend, the homeless community in Galway wants whoever forms the next government to put the homeless crisis first and to ensure a better future for the next generation.

Yesterday we published Homeless Postcards from Dublin, as part of a project has been running during the campaign. They told us how they feel unsafe, both in hostels and on the streets, and how they believe the government does not treat them as human beings.

Now it’s time to look outside the capital. 

Here’s what people in Galway and Limerick had to say about the election:

This would-be Fine Gael voter in Limerick has been homeless for 15 years. “Help the homeless in every way you can,” is their message to the next government.

In another message, a woman called Louise asked the next government to put the homelessness issue first.

“People say ‘Oh if you’re homeless how can you not get into a hostel?’ And you say to them ‘It’s full’.”

She has been homeless since 2000 and said sometimes she sleeps under a bridge or behind bins.

This man, who gave John as his first name, told us the exact date he became homeless – 11 December 2017.

He stays at Cope’s McGarry House accommodation in Limerick with his girlfriend. He will be voting in the election for Sinn Fein. Health, housing and rent caps – that’s his list for the new government:

Although most of the cards urged the new government to “sort out the homeless crisis”, many mentioned overcrowding and waiting lists in hospitals.

And this one is pushing for “proper wages” to keep nurses and teachers in Ireland too:

Some didn’t mention the housing crisis at all. This person would vote for the Green Party if they were to vote, because they want safer bicycle lanes in Galway and to preserve the environment.

They said they have been homeless since they left High Support, which is residential care for children and teens with severe emotional and behavioural problems. 

William Cummings, runs a listening service through through Inner City Helping Homeless and who assisted with the project in Dublin, has called for a structured campaign next time there is an election to ensure homeless people are registered, that they have the information they need to vote and that they can get to their polling station.

“It’s too late now for this election but maybe the next one,” he said. 

A number of people in Limerick and Galway said they either were not registered or could not get back to their polling station, because it is outside the city. 

Although he said most people expressed a desire to vote, some feel the entire political system has let them down.

Some, like this person in Limerick who has been homeless for more than seven years, do not feel they will benefit. They said they sleep in doorways, in squats, or “anywhere that felt a bit safe”:

This person in Galway, living in a B&B with their six children, said they’ve “lost interest” in politics:

A service-user at Limerick’s McGarry House said they want to see the next government providing better supports for families, particularly young mothers and single fathers who need a roof over their heads so their children can stay with them.

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Support for families came up a few times among the cards from both Limerick and Galway.

Some, like this one from Galway, were filled in by couples. They have been homeless for more than three years and are currently living in transitional accommodation, which is designed to bridge the gap to permanent accommodation. 

They want the next government to limit the amount of time children are allowed to remain in homeless accommodation:

One single mother in Galway said she hopes things improve for the next generation. She’s been homeless for nine months. 

“We used to have a home,” she wrote. 

Another Galway resident, currently living in a hub, asks the next government to “stop letting us down”.

They said the children experiencing homelessness now have “lost a childhood”:

In 2014, during what we thought then was the height of the homeless crisis,‘s Homeless Postcard project collected the views of people who were living on the country’s streets and in its hostels.

The Homeless Postcard project returns for the general election and over the past two weeks – with the assistance of a number of homeless services – we have been asking the community for their opinions on the current political situation.

We sent these postcards to Cope Galway and Novas Limerick and they came back to us this week. Some of the cards were filled out by volunteers or staff in cases where a person was not comfortable with reading and writing themselves. If you want to see more from this project, you’ll find more of the postcards here.

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