‘The worst crisis in our 27 year history’ says hostel manager


EMERGENCY accommodation in Letterkenny has reached full capacity with managers claiming the county’s homeless situation has never been so dire.

Colmcille Hostel, managed by the St. Vincent de Paul, provides four separate units for single homeless people and six units for homeless families.


In total, the Letterkenny centre is currently housing 24 homeless people.

“Without a doubt, the situation is the worst we’ve seen since the centre opened 27 years ago,” according to hostel manager, Ciarán Maguire.

In the past we would have been able to help people get back on their feet and then they’d move on but now they’ve nowhere to go.

“Things have gotten worse since Christmas because there are very few properties to rent and anything that’s there is too expensive for people to afford.

“This is supposed to be emergency accommodation but we’re finding it harder to move people on. The idea is that people stay here short-term and then find private rented accommodation but that’s not happening.

“The people that we would be helping are on the housing waiting list with Donegal County Council. For one reason or another they just became homeless and ended up needing our support.”

At a recent meeting of Donegal County Council, Sinn Féin Cllr Gary Doherty asked officials to reveal how many people have presented to the council as homeless in each of the past five years.


In response, the Castlefinn councillor was told that 127 homeless people were accommodated by the council last year, compared to 36 in 2019.

“The issue of homelessness is coming up more and more due to pressures within the housing market. The rental sector is under enormous strain, and we have a new population from Ukraine which exacerbates existing pressures,” Cllr Doherty told the Donegal News.

The Donegal Homeless Action Team (HAT) is a multi-agency body that meets each month to discuss the cases of those suffering from homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless. The county council convenes and chairs these meetings.

The local authority also works closely with the Donegal Domestic Violence Service to assist, when possible, in cases where people present as homeless due to violence within the home.

Ciarán Maguire, at St. Colmcille’s Hostel, stresses that everyone involved in the housing crisis locally is trying their best to help as many people as possible.

“Officials in the council are just as frustrated as we are because their budget is used up by putting people in Bed & Breakfasts as we don’t have anything available here. You can imagine the cost of that.

“Also, it’s actually difficult to find a Bed & Breakfast willing to get on board. The council often gives vouchers to people when they go there looking for accommodation but it can be difficult to use the vouchers,” said Mr. Maguire.

“The people we are helping are also frustrated. They know they’re here longer than they need to be or want to be. We do a lot of work with them but they just get to a stage where they want to move on to their own place.

“We have rules and regulations that they might not always be happy with. For example, we have to enforce a curfew so that people are in by 11pm. Alcohol is not allowed and visiting is also restricted. Unfortunately, these rules are necessary,” added Mr. Maguire.

Using research, analysis, evidence and feedback from its members on the ground, St. Vincent de Paul says it’s working to end poverty in Donegal and nationwide.

“We raise social justice issues and challenge social injustices that we see such as homelessness, low pay, inadequate social welfare, educational disadvantage, and the high cost of living.”

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