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Connacht Tribune

Galway Simon sees biggest demand in its 40-year history

Stephen Corrigan

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Demand for the services of Galway Simon continued to grow last year, as the homelessness charity experienced the largest number of clients requiring its help in its 40-year history.

In its annual report, released this week, the charity detailed how its housing and homelessness prevention services assisted 646 households in 2019 – an increase of 17 per cent on 2018.

Just under 450 single people accessed Galway Simon services, in addition to 184 families and 14 couples across Galway City and County.

CEO of Galway Simon Karen Golden said the organisation’s focus remained on finding sustainable solutions for those at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

“Our prevention services support people at risk of homelessness to sustain their current accommodation or find alternative housing, and to avoid entering emergency accommodation.

“Where people do become homeless, we provide shelter in our emergency and transitional housing while providing support to clients to find pathways out of homelessness, to move into their own secure and affordable home,” said Ms Golden.

The report notes that 2019 continued on the same trend as previous years, with very slow delivery of new housing across private, affordable and social housing in Galway, resulting in a lack of secure accommodation.

Throughout the year, the number of people in emergency accommodation grew from 537 in January to 557 in December – a rise of four per cent on 2018 figures.

There were just over 3,400 households on Galway City and County Council social housing waiting lists, while just 278 social houses were built across both council areas.

The housing crisis has deepened in recent years resulting in sky-rocketing rents, with private rental units costing around 50 per cent more than they did four years ago in both the city and county – averaging at €1,309 per month in the city and €934 in the county.

In all, the charity expended almost €5.3 million in 2019, and recorded a small operational deficit of just under €15,000.

Funding was made up of a mix of statutory and grant income (61 per cent); fundraising, shops and investment (25 per cent); community employment schemes (six per cent); and service charges (seven per cent).

In all, €1.27 million was raised through donations, appeals, fundraising events, sponsorship and through Galway Simon shops in 2019, while 427 people volunteered their time and efforts.

Last year was a significant year for the charity as it marked its fortieth anniversary in October, recalling the early days of Galway Simon Community with the commencement of its Soup Run.

Well-known Galway City man Dennis Connolly served as an ambassador for the event, having been one of the very first clients supported by the Soup Run.

“It was an honour to have Dennis Connolly, who has been involved with Galway Simon Community since 1979, to support our fortieth anniversary campaign,” said Ms Golden.

While the report covers the charity’s activities in 2019, it does include some details of the challenges faced in the wake of the outbreak of Covid-19 in March, which Ms Golden said gave way to a sense of fear across the community.

“The experience of homelessness can have a profound impact on a person’s physical and mental health, and many who we support are extremely vulnerable at this time. The challenge of keeping people safe and well during the pandemic was truly daunting.

“In spite of this fear, our staff and volunteers pulled out all the stops to protect our clients. I am incredibly proud to have been part of the inspirational response of our clients, staff and volunteers to this crisis. Our services have continued to support clients every single day,” said Ms Golden.

Connacht Tribune

Compliant Galwegians are keeping their distance

Francis Farragher

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Checkpoint...Garda warning for those who stray too far from home.

BOY racers, cyclists, gym users and young people attending house parties are among those in Galway who have been issued with Fixed Payment Notices (FPNs) for breaching the Covid-19 travel regulations over the past week.

However, Gardaí in Galway have reported ‘a very high-level of compliance’ from the general public as regards the travel restrictions that are a central part of the Level-5 ‘Stay Home – Stay Safe’ Covid campaign.

Over the weekend, Gardaí issued FPNs to so-called ‘boy racers’ in two separate cases on the Tuam Road outside Galway city and in the Craughwell area.

FPNs – involving a €100 on-the-spot fine – were also issued last week to a number of young people attending house parties in the Galway city area, after Gardaí had been called to the scene.

Two cyclists stopped in the Cornamona area of North Connemara last week, who were 19 kilometres from their homes – and outside their own county boundary – also faced Garda censure.

The cyclists weren’t from the same household; they weren’t wearing masks; and also, were in breach of social distancing regulations.

Gardaí also came across a case of a gym in South Galway being used by a number of people last week – also a breach of the Covid-19, Level-5 restrictions.

While Gardaí also received a number of calls about possible ‘pub-opening’ violations, on investigation, they found no sign of activity on the premises they checked out.

Galway Chief Garda Superintendent, Tom Curley, told the Connacht Tribune that overall, there was ‘a very high level of compliance’ as regards the travel restrictions which was ‘very encouraging’.

See full story – and comprehensive Covid-19 coverage – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Lessons learned on home-schooling

Denise McNamara

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Cathal Moore, principal of the Presentation Athenry.

Home-schooling is working better this time round with many teachers conducting live classes and more students actively engaging than when schools closed suddenly last March.

But virtual education is a poor substitute for the experience of the classroom with students sorely missing social interaction, according to teachers, while parents are still struggling to balance working from home with ensuring their children keep up with the school work.

The sooner that schools can reopen safely the better for everyone – although most agree that it’s looking more likely to be after mid-term than at the beginning of February.

“Everybody is in a better place this time round – schools, teachers, parents and students. Everybody expected to be back at school. It’s no secret last time we got two hours’ notice but this time round we’re better prepared,” remarks the principal of the Presentation Athenry, Cathal Moore.

The mixed secondary school is doing a mix of live and recorded classes as not every student has good broadband.

After the first week, there was feedback from students that they felt there was too much homework in addition to the virtual classes while teachers reported that they would prefer more live communication from their charges.

“It is more tiring – fatigue is definitely a factor when on a screen all day and if this goes on for a prolonged amount of time it will creep in for a growing number of students.”

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Hard-pressed hospitals down 450 staff over Covid

Dara Bradley

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More than 450 staff – including nurses at UHG and Portiuncula – are now out of work due to Covid, as staff shortages threaten the public hospitals’ ability to cope with the crisis.

The upsurge has seen UHG deal with a record number of Covid-19 patients, and the hospital had to escalate its surge capacity plan and add extra beds in ICU.

The latest CSO figures reveal that the first week of the New Year was Galway’s deadliest yet on the pandemic front, with five lives lost over those opening seven days of 2021.

That brought the total number of virus fatalities in Galway to 25, and it’s understood there have been further deaths locally since then, which will be confirmed later.

From March to the end of November there were 20 deaths notified in Galway, and no further deaths were recorded in all of December.

News of Galway’s deadliest week comes as local leaders in the HSE, Garda, and local government joined forces to warn that Covid-19 was still spreading rapidly in the community.

Nationally, between January 5 and 18, there were 263 Covid-19 deaths recorded, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC), which does not give a geographical breakdown. Of these deaths, 119 were hospitalised and 14 had been admitted to ICU.

The median age of all of Galway’s Covid fatalities is 83; the median age of the confirmed cases in Galway is 31 – the lowest of 26 counties.

See full story – and comprehensive Covid-19 coverage – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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