“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
Gardaí in Galway operating with fewer patrol cars
Five large Garda stations in County Galway are operating with fewer Garda vehicles now than two years ago – leading to a call for the local fleet to be restored to 2020 levels.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has confirmed to Galway West TD Noel Grealish that the Garda fleet in the Galway Garda Division stands at 116 as of October of this year.
That’s greater than any of the years from 2012 to 2019, but it represents a reduction on the Garda fleet when compared with 2020 and 2021 figures.
Galway Gardaí had a dozen fewer vehicles this year, compared with 2020. There are 13 fewer patrol cars, down from 96 to 83; there was no change in the number of vans and motorcycles, and the division acquired one extra 4×4.
Garda stations in Ballinasloe, Loughrea, Tuam, Clifden and Salthill have all lost patrol cars in the past 24 months, according to the official figures.
Independent Deputy Grealish has demanded a restoration of the Garda fleet in Galway to 2020 levels.
“Gardaí have a demanding enough job to do, but it makes that important work even more difficult if they are not allocated the proper resources,” Deputy Grealish said.
“A reduction of twelve vehicles in less than two years across the Galway Division, down from 128 at the end of 2020 to 116 in October this year, is concerning.
“I have asked the Minister for Justice to explain why this has happened, that the number of vehicles in the Galway Division has fallen by ten per cent, when nationally the total fleet actually increased by 6%. I am demanding that they at the very least be restored to their 2020 levels,” he said.
Deputy Grealish pointed out that almost all areas of the county had suffered a reduction in Garda vehicles since the beginning of last year. Ballinasloe currently has six vehicles, a reduction of two since the end of 2020; Clifden also has six, down one; Loughrea was down three to eleven; Salthill was down three to ten; the biggest reduction in Garda vehicles was in the Tuam area down five to twelve.
Galway City’s fleet increased by two vehicles, for a total of 71.
Minister McEntee said that the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was responsible for the administration and management of An Garda Síochána, including the purchase, allocation, and effective and efficient use of Garda vehicles.
“As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters. I am assured, however, that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review to ensure their optimum use in light of identified operational needs and emerging crime trends,” she added.
Galway City Councillor Donal Lyons (Ind) last month complained that the number of vehicles available to Gardaí in Salthill and Knocknacarra was insufficient.
Progress stalls on setting up Eating Disorder Community Health Team
Despite an increasing number of young people experiencing eating disorders, a new specialist community team has yet to be set up in Galway well over a year after it was announced.
The delay is mainly due to a difficulty recruiting a consultant psychiatrist to lead the team, this week’s HSE West Regional Health Forum meeting was told.
Councillor John Connolly (FF) queried the progress on the new Eating Disorder Community Health Team within the Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) after the HSE revealed in September 2021 that it would be set up in response to the hike in youths presenting for treatment.
Chief Officer of HSE Community Healthcare West, Breda Crehan-Roche, said interviews had been conducted to recruit a clinical lead, but so far none had been appointed. Six other staff had been appointed and these had been assigned to existing teams within CAMHS while a psychiatrist could come on board to manage the team.
“We have difficulty getting locum cover. Interviews were held. It’s a priority. We are doing a running recruitment process,” she told this month’s meeting.
It took between six and nine months to appoint a person to such a senior post.
“There is a lot of work in specialist intervention in the eating disorders team.”
She admitted that there were no records of how much of an increase there had been in referrals to CAMHS Galway for youths troubled by an eating disorder as all records were on paper rather than on computer.
“I can’t ask clinicians and therapists to pull together manual figures,” she stated. But the indication from staff on the ground was that there had been a downward trend in referrals post-Covid.
There was a move to keeping digital records by the middle of next year.
Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan dies aged 78
Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan has passed away at the age of 78.
Born in Kilkenny in 1944, Bishop Drennan studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth from where he was ordained in 1968
As a priest, the then Fr Drennan served as curate in both St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish in Kilkenny and then in Ballycallan.
From 1975 he taught Sacred Scripture at St. Kieran’s College, returning to Rome in 1980 to become Spiritual Director at the Irish College there for the next five years.
When Fr. Martin again returned home he became a Lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he continued to teach until his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in 1997.
Following the retirement of Bishop James McLoughlin, Bishop Drennan was chosen as Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora and was installed on 3rd July 2005 in Galway Cathedral serving to his retirement in 2016.
A brief statement released by the Diocese of Galway this afternoon confirmed his passing and offered their sympathies to Bishop Drennan’s family and all those who mourn his loss.
Funeral arrangements for the late Bishop Drennan will be announced later