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Connacht Tribune

Galway Simon sees 46% rise in demand for services

Denise McNamara

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Galway Simon had the most challenging year in its 40-year history with the number of people accessing emergency accommodation in the west increasing by 46% in 2017.

With this trend continuing into 2018, new CEO Karen Golden warns that homelessness in Galway will get worse before it gets better.

She pointed out that the number of people in emergency accommodation has shot from 36 to 499 individuals and families over the past five years. Within two years – and without any major improvement in housing supply – that could rise to 1,600.

Galway Simon’s 2017 annual report found it helped prevent 402 households from becoming homeless – up from 219 the year before.

It worked with 642 households – including 335 completely new households. That number is up from 622 in 2016, which was a 70% increase on the previous year.

While rent pressure zones were introduced, these are not preventing people becoming homeless. The charity’s ‘Locked Out of the Market’ reports consistently showed that there were no properties available to rent in Galway within the Housing Assistance Payment limits (HAP).

“Social housing in Galway is not coming on stream fast enough for the demand from the local community. The Government’s social housing targets for Galway City and County are 931 units for 2018, with 73% of those to come from the private rental sector,” explained Ms Golden.

“However, the reality is that 93% of the units delivered so far this year are coming from the private rental sector. With rent increases in the city of 15.9% in the last year, this is not sustainable.

“Without the supply of social and affordable housing available that is needed for city and county, the harsh reality is that the crisis is going to get worse before it gets better. That is why at this critical time, Galway Simon Community are placing our focus on homelessness prevention; keeping people in the homes that they already have.”

The charity prevents homelessness by intervening to help maintain a current tenancy or by sourcing a new one which avoids the trauma – particularly for children – of having to relocate to B&Bs and hotels. It is makes economic sense as the nightly cost of temporary accommodation far exceeds private rent.

After two years of running a deficit budget due to the expansion of services, 2017 marked a turnaround in finances for Galway Simon due to a bequest received of €546,830.

Total expenditure was nearly €4.7 million – a 6% increase compared to the previous year, mainly due to increased wage costs arising from increased services.

Turnover in Simon charity shops remained stable at €475,000, their annual Sleep Out raised over €29,000. Statutory and grant income from the HSE, Galway City and County Councils and the child and family agency Túsla represented 55% of total income, a decline of 4% from the previous year.

Due to a change in the pay scale for social care organisations which are funded by the HSE, the new CEO has taken a pay cut. Bill Griffin received a gross salary of €89,183 last year before his retirement. His replacement is on a salary of over €75,000.

Looking ahead, Galway Simon plans to extend its Homelessness Prevention Services, Youth Service and Health and Well-being Team in addition to acquiring additional housing in order to prevent more adults and children becoming homeless.

Last year 35 people aged between 18 and 25 accessed the Youth Service and 12 of those accessed its designated youth accommodation.

Since the beginning of this year, Simon now offers pilot outreach services to people in the Loughrea and Tuam areas.

Addiction counsellors worked with over 100 individuals providing over 500 one-to-one sessions as well as running relapse prevention groups.

In total, 297 people volunteered with the organisation in 2017.

Connacht Tribune

Galway to complete vaccine roll-out by end of the summer

Denise McNamara

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Ninety-five year old Margaret Kenny was first person to be administered the Covid-19 vaccination Practice Nurse Deirdre Furey at the Surgery Athenry.

On the first anniversary of Covid-19’s deadly arrival into Ireland, the head of the Saolta hospital group has predicted that all who want the vaccine will have received it by the end of the summer.

Tony Canavan, CEO of the seven public hospitals, told the Connacht Tribune that the HSE was planning to set up satellite centres from the main vaccination hub at the Galway Racecourse to vaccinate people on the islands and in the most rural parts of the county.

While locations have not yet been signed up, the HSE was looking at larger buildings with good access that could be used temporarily to carry out the vaccination programme over a short period.

“We do want to reach out to rural parts of the region instead of drawing in people from the likes of Clifden and over from the islands. The plan is to set up satellites from the main centre, sending out small teams out to the likes of Connemara,” he explained.

“Ideally we’d run it as close as possible to the same time that the main centres are operating once that is set up. Communication is key – if people know we’re coming, it will put people’s minds at rest.”

Get all the latest Covid-19 coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Galway meteorologist enjoying new-found fame in the sun!

Denise McNamara

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Linda Hughes, presenting the RTÉ weather forecast live in studio.

Growing up in Galway where four seasons in a day is considered a soft one, Linda Hughes always had a keen interest in the weather.

But unlike most Irish people, instead of just obsessing about it, she actually went and pursued it as a career.

The latest meteorologist to appear on RTE’s weather forecasts hails from Porridgtown, Oughterard, and brings with her an impressive background in marine forecasting.

She spent six years in Aerospace and Marine International in Aberdeen, Scotland, which provides forecasts for the oil and gas industry.

The 33-year-old was a route analyst responsible for planning routes for global shipping companies. She joined the company after studying experimental physics in NUIG and doing a masters in applied meteorology in Redding in the UK.

“My job was to keep crews safe and not lose cargo by picking the best route to get them to their destination as quickly as possibly but avoiding hurricanes, severe storms,” she explains.

“It was a very interesting job, I really enjoyed it but it was very stressful as you were dealing with bad weather all the time because there’s always bad weather in some part of the world.”

Read the full interview with Linda Hughes in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Great-great-grandmother home after Covid, a stroke, heart failure and brain surgery

Dave O'Connell

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Mary Quinn...back home after an incredible few months.

Her family are understandably calling her their miracle mum – because an 81 year old great-great-grandmother from Galway has bounced back from Covid-19, a stroke, heart failure and brain surgery since Christmas…to return hale and hearty, to her own home.

But Mary Quinn’s family will never forget the trauma of the last three months, as the Woodford woman fought back against all of the odds from a series of catastrophic set-backs.

The drama began when Mary was found with a bleed on her brain on December 16. She was admitted to Portiuncula Hospital, and transferred to Beaumont a day later where she underwent an emergency procedure – only to then suffer a stroke.

To compound the crisis, while in Beaumont, she contracted pneumonia, suffered heart failure and developed COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – the inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs.

“Christmas without mom; things did not look good,” said her daughter Catherine Shiel.

But the worst was still to come – because before Mary was discharged, she contracted Covid-19.

Read Mary’s full, heart-warming story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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