“This year, 2018, has been the single most challenging year we’ve experienced as an organisation, in terms of dealing with homelessness in Galway.” That is the stark assessment of this year by Assistant CEO of COPE Galway, Martin O’Connor, who warned that without a significant increase in the supply of housing in 2019, the homelessness crisis will worsen.
COPE’s Cold Weather Response has been in operation at the rear of its Teach Corrib Day Centre on the Seamus Quirke Road, Newcastle, since the end of November.
According to Mr O’Connor, an increase in the number of emergency beds at the facility is a sure indicator that things are getting worse when it comes to the numbers sleeping rough.
“We have additional night time accommodation this year with 21 beds – we can accommodate 23 by using some of the facilities in the day centre itself.
“Last year, it was a night time only service, where we opened at 9.30pm, but this year, we are open from 5.30pm,” said Mr O’Connor.
“In previous years, our Cold Weather Response experience would have been that in the early part of winter, while there was a demand, it wasn’t excessive – this year, that demand is there,” he added.
Day services at the Newcastle-based facility provide people with clothes washing and showering facilities and hot food.
Research carried out by the organisation in November revealed that homelessness among families is at an all-time high, with 145 households in emergency accommodation – 84 of which were families with a total of 192 children.
This survey of homelessness in Galway was carried out over a 24-hour period in advance of the commencement of the Cold Weather Response, and over that period, 27 rough sleepers were in touch with COPE Galway services.
“That means that they presented on the night to our Fairgreen Hostel, were in touch with our outreach piece that goes out in the early morning to engage with those sleeping rough, or they presented at the day centre.
“In addition to those 27, there are another 23 who we know to be sleeping rough either periodically or on a continuous basis,” said Mr O’Connor.
He believed that since 2014, those who once would have had a short stay in emergency accommodation were now, four years later, significantly more likely to end up in hotels and B&Bs on a long-term basis.
Additional housing is the one and only solution to the crisis, said Mr O’Connor, adding that Galway’s housing needs are unlikely to be met in 2019.
“The Government’s rebuilding Ireland policy initiative focuses on increasing new social housing units and that is the way forward – but it is taking longer than is ideal or needed.
“In Galway, it’ll be 2020 before there is any significant increase in the number of social houses available, and the number of private houses in the city is very low.
“That is a challenge. The demand is squeezing a cohort of people out of housing,” he said.
People who find themselves at the lower end of the ladder socio-economically are significantly affected when one or more additional challenge is thrown in their way, explained Mr O’Connor, adding that mental health and addiction problems, or families of children with disabilities are just some of challenges that can push people over the edge into homelessness.
Christmas is just another day in homeless services, said Mr O’Connor, but for those in emergency accommodation and those who are homeless, COPE does try to make it as special as it possibly can be.
The Giving Tree, run by a number of local charities, seeks donations for those who might need gifts more than most at Christmas.
“For many, particularly families, this is a godsend. It gives children the opportunity to have a decent gift at Christmas and for adults, they get more practical things like clothing.
“We have food hampers, which are delivered this week, providing people with staples like practical food items – the staples really,” said Mr O’Connor.
For those wishing to support COPE over the festive period, donations of all kinds are gratefully received.
“If people want their donation to go directly to the service users, it’s the small things like mobile phone credit that most of us take for granted,” said Mr O’Connor.
Donations such as these can be dropped to any COPE facility in Galway while financial contributions can also be made online at copegalway.ie/donate
Full details of the Christmas Covid restrictions
The Taoiseach announced this evening that the country will move to Level 3 restrictions from next week, with shops, gyms, hairdressers, hotels, restaurants and gastro-pubs set to reopen.
“It hasn’t been easy. Many individuals and businesses have made huge sacrifices. And many more are totally fed up with Covid-19 and everything that has come with it over the past nine months. I understand that feeling. Very often I share it,” Micheál Martin said in an address to the nation.
“This cannot and will not be the kind of Christmas we are used to but it will be a very special time where we all enjoy some respite,” he said, as he announced the planned move to “Level 3, with some modifications”.
The use of face coverings is now recommended in crowded workplaces, places of worship and in busy or crowded outdoor spaces where there is significant congregation.
From 1 December, under Level 3, as set out in the Plan for Living with Covid-19:
- weddings with up to 25 guests are permitted (same as current provisions)
- funerals with up to 25 mourners are permitted (same as current provisions)
- no organised indoor events should take place, other than as provided below
- gatherings of 15 people may take place outdoors
- non-contact training may take place outdoors in pods of 15
- only individual training should take place indoors and no exercise or dance classes are permitted
- no matches/events may take place except professional and elite sports, approved inter-county Gaelic games, horse-racing and approved equestrian events, all behind closed doors
- gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools may reopen for individual training only
- nightclubs, discos and casinos should remain closed
- hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs may open with services limited to residents only
- non-essential retail and personal services may reopen
- people should continue to work from home unless absolutely necessary to attend in person
- public transport capacity is limited to 50%
From 1 December:
- households should not mix with any other households outside those within their bubble
- people should stay within their county apart from work, education and other essential purposes
From 4 December:
- restaurants and pubs operating as restaurants (serving a substantial meal) may reopen for indoor dining with additional restrictions, (including requirement for meals to be prepared on site, inside the premises). This includes access for non-residents to restaurants in hotels
- higher, further and adult education should remain primarily online
Adjustments for the Christmas Period
From 1 December:
- places of worship to reopen for services with restrictive measures, subject to review in January
- museums, galleries, and libraries to reopen
- cinemas to reopen
- wet pubs to remain closed except for takeaway/delivery
From 18 December to 6 January:
- households can mix with up to two other households
- travel outside your county to be permitted
From 7 January, the measures put in place prior to 18 December will apply, subject to ongoing review of the trajectory of the virus.
The measures for cross-border travel will be the same as for travel between all other counties, that is, from 1 December, people should stay within their county apart from work, education and other essential purposes while from 18 December to 6 January, travel outside the county is permitted.
It has further been agreed that the use of face coverings is now recommended in crowded workplaces, places of worship and in busy or crowded outdoor spaces where there is significant congregation.
Curran, Melody and Molloy all leave Utd as Caulfield confirms two new signings
The comings and goings have continued at Galway United in the past week, with the club busy re-signing players fork last season, adding some new faces, as well as confirming the departure of players who were part of the 2020 squad.
Having already said goodbye to the sextet of Conor Barry, Joe Collins, Vinny Faherty, Jack Lynch, Timo Partheons, and Josh Smith, the club this week confirmed the departure of three more players: Enda Curran (89 appearances, 20 goals), Conor Melody (108 appearances, five goals), and Timmy Molloy (16 appearances, no goals).
Curran was signed for United as an 18-years-old by Sean Connor ahead of the 2011 season and made his debut in the opening game of that campaign, coming on as a substitute for the injured Neal Keane in the 43rd of a 3-0 defeat at home to St Patrick’s Athletic.
He made a total of 13 appearances for United that season, and he was back with the Tribesmen for United’s return to the national league in the 2014 season, when he made eight appearances, scoring his first goal for United in the first of those games, coming off the bench to score in the 5-0 win at home to Shamrock Rovers B in July.
His most productive season for United was the following year’s campaign, when he scored 12 goals in 25 appearances in the Premier Division for United (he made 29 league and cup appearance in total that season), including his one and only hat-trick for the club, coming in the 5-0 win away to Bray Wanderers in April.
The following month, he had the distinction of scoring two penalties in a single game, in the 5-3 win over Bohemians.
That haul of a dozen goals saw him finish as the club’s joint top-scorer in the league that season alongside Jake Keegan, though the US striker finished as overall top scorer on 16 goals thanks to 2 goals in the FAI Cup, and two in the League Cup.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
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Biden is a Maree man!
The connections of incoming US President, Joe Biden, to Mayo and Louth on his mother’s side of his family have been widely reported – but it has emerged that he has just as strong links to a small townland outside Oranmore through his father’s side…as recently as four generations ago.
And the news has led to hopes that the President-elect will include a trip to Galway in any itinerary for a visit to Ireland during his presidency – and it is being reported this week that the incoming president will make Ireland his first state visit when he assumes office.
Contact had been made with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s office with the news of the President-elect’s Galway links ahead of his visit to Ireland in 2016, but Liam Hanniffy – who has uncovered the link between his family and that of Mr Biden, was told that the itinerary had already been planned, and a visit to Galway was not possible.
Liam Hanniffy, who is from Ballinacourty in Maree, has been researching his family tree since been contacted by a man from America in 2014 saying they were third cousins, and both were also related to the then US Vice-President, Joe Biden.
Research by Liam has discovered that a man called John Hanniffy, who was born just over 200 years ago in Ballinacourty Hill in Maree, is actually the great-great grandfather of the President-elect – and to make the Galway link even stronger, John Hanniffy married a woman whose parents was also born in the same townland, meaning two of his great-great-great grandparents also came from the same townlands nestled on Galway Bay.
Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition at www.connachttribune.ie