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.
Violent incident in Tuam leaves seven hospitalised
Gardaí are investigating after an incident in Tuam yesterday left seven people injured.
A violent altercation broke out between a large group at the cemetery in Tuam at about 4pm yesterday.
Around 30 Gardaí responded to the incident at the cemetery on the Athenry Road in Tuam, which broke out following two funerals in the area.
Gardaí supported by members from the wider North Western Region and the Regional Armed Support Unit had to physically intervene between parties and disperse those present.
Five males and two females were injured during the course of the incident and were taken to University Hospital Galway with non-life threatening injuries.
A 16-year-old boy was arrested at the scene, as he tried to flee in possession of a knife.
He was taken to Tuam Garda Station and has since been released. A file is being prepared for the Juvenile Liaison Officer.
Gardaí are appealing for any witnesses to this incident or for anyone with any information to contact Tuam Garda Station .
Anger over ANC ‘snip’
ANGRY farmers hit out during last week’s Galway IFA at the Dept. of Agriculture over what they described as their ‘heavy handed tactics’ in docking BEAM penalties from ANC payments made last week.
Although Agriculture Minister, Charlie McConalogue, has apologised for the actions taken by his Department officials, delegates who attended last Thursday’s night county IFA meeting in the Claregalway Hotel, hit out at what happened.
In some cases, according to Galway IFA Chairperson, Anne Mitchell, farmers who had already paid back the BEAM penalty also had the money deducted from their ANC (Areas of Natural Constraint) payments made last week.
Many farmers received ‘a shock in the post’ when their ANC payments were hit with the deductions of penalties from the BEAM scheme – earlier they had been warned of interest penalties if any balances weren’t repaid within 30 days.
At the core of the problem was the inclusion of a 5% stock numbers reduction in the BEAM scheme (Beef Exceptional Aid Measure) aimed at helping to compensate farmers for a drop-off in beef prices between September, 2018 and May, 2019.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App
Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.
Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite HERE.
Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.
Siblings find each other – and their Connemara roots – after 80 years
By Erin Gibbons
A family separated for over 80 years was reunited at the end of an emotional journey in Connemara last weekend – thanks to DNA testing and the expert help of heritage researchers.
Pat McKeown, who lives in Staffordshire in the UK, is the daughter of Síle Gorham from Roisín Na Mainiach, Carna – but she was given up for adoption and reared for a time in a Belfast Mother and Baby Home.
Now, at the age of 81, she found her roots – returning to her mother’s native place for the first time last weekend, in the company of her long-lost brother Micheál.
It was an emotional end to a lifelong search for her roots that even led her to hire a private detective to try and locate her family and to discover her name.
All of this proved unsuccessful – and she had effectively given up her search when she was contacted unexpectedly by a man called Miceál McKeown, who turned out to be her brother.
Micheál – an artist and sculptor – and his daughter Orla had made the connection through DNA testing, after Miceál too had set out to discover more about his own roots.
That revealed that Síle Gorham had married Michael McKeown in 1939, and Síle went on to have three more children named Áine, Séan and Miceál.
Pat visited Connemara last weekend for the first time to learn about her mother Síle and the Connemara ancestry which she feels was robbed from her for her entire 81 years.
She was accompanied by Miceál, his wife Rosemary, daughter Orla and son-in-law Rueben Keogh.
Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie