Homeless crisis has little sign of abating
One Galway charity alone dealt with just under 1,000 people who became homeless last year – and, with Christmas on the way, many charities in the sector are warning that the crisis is just deepening across all sectors.
Last year COPE Galway worked with 652 adults and their 311 children affected by homelessness in Galway.
They also reported being “unable to accommodate 227 women and 280 children who requested refuge due to lack of space”.
COPE works with almost 200 households experiencing homelessness; 45 families are in critical housing situations, 22 families (with 53 children) are in emergency accommodation and a further 18 are on ‘Notice to Quit’ from their current abode.
And it’s not just COPE feeling the pressure; Focus Ireland revealed that “over 450 families became homeless last year, including over 1,000 children”.
The Simon Community says that “being homeless is more than about being without a roof over your head; it’s about a lack of security, lack of belonging, lack of privacy and lack of safety.”
Charities working to combat homelessness say urgent steps are needed to improve access to affordable accommodation. They call for a focus on prevention and for keeping people in their homes.
The gap between rent and rent supplements poses the largest threat to people for losing their homes.
In 2013 there was a national rent increase of 11%, and nearly 10% in 2014. Yet these inflated figures are not reflected in rent supplements. For many, the rent hike is proving to be ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back.’
Evidence-based medical reports on the correlation between mental health and substance abuse reveal that over 50% of people suffering with mental health difficulties will develop problems with drugs or alcohol.
‘Dual diagnosis’ is a term used to describe people who have mental health problems as well as addiction to drugs or alcohol.
COPE Galway recently proposed an initiative to alleviate the housing crisis by calling on landlords to make properties available for rent, within current rental accommodation scheme (RAS) and rent supplement levels.
“A landlord willing to forego and extra income of €200 per month could provide a house for a family facing homelessness, while continuing to receive a RAS rental income of €850 per month (based on an average three-bed house) and COPE will offer support for the tenants as needed,” said Jacquie Horan, CEO of COPE Galway.
The charity is committed to bringing 16 housing units on stream.
“We want eight homes to be provided for rent by local investors and landlords who wish to contribute to solving the housing shortage crisis by supporting the organisation. A further eight are being provided via direct purchase.”
“At this stage we have to get practical. It’s about taking small steps toward an ultimate solution to the housing crisis,” said the charity’s CEO.
Nurses call in Chief Fire Officer on ED overcrowding
The nurses’ union has formally urged the Chief Fire Officer to investigate 17 alleged breaches of the fire regulations as a result of chronic overcrowding in the emergency department at University Hospital Galway.
It’s the second time the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has done so since Christmas, fearing the lives of staff and patients are being put in grave danger.
The emergency department was busier than normal last week, with between 222 and 251 patients turning up to be seen per day. On Wednesday of last week there were 53 patients waiting on trolleys, according to figures released by the Saolta Hospital group. That went down to 47 on Thursday and Friday.
This week has seen little let up. On Monday and Tuesday the number of people who could only get a trolley was down to 36 and 38 respectively.
Local area representative of the INMO, Anne Burke, said as a result of very high attendances at the temporary emergency department, management had opened a transit area where between 12 and 14 people could be accommodated in cubicles.
Get 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. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.
Comer has eyes on the prize
If you Google Damien Comer, the first entry the search returns is a dedicated Wikipedia page, which declares: “He’s better than David Clifford”.
And while Wikipedia as a source of fact isn’t necessarily always reliable, who are we to argue with it?
But whatever about comparisons with Kerry greats, the Annaghdown clubman is certainly up there among Galway’s finest ever footballers.
Winning a first All-Star last season, from his third nomination, was proof of that. It was a special personal accolade, but he’d trade it in a shot for a Celtic Cross.
“It was nice to get but if I finish my career not having won an All-Ireland, I’ll be very disappointed,” he declared.
Comer hints that the 2022 All-Ireland final loss to Kerry last July was not one of his better games in maroon, and it’s one he thinks about regularly.
“Yeah, I would yeah, I’d think about it a bit. But I try to forget it as well, because it wasn’t a good day for me, personally, anyway.
“You try to forget about it and yet you have to try to learn from it and improve on the mistakes you made, and stuff you didn’t do that you should’ve done, and different things that you can bring to this season.
“It’s one that’s hard to forget about really because we were there for so long. Sixty minutes in, neck-and-neck, and then they just pulled away, so it was disappointing,” he said.
Damien Comer has teamed up with Specsavers to encourage people to take a more proactive approach to their eye and hearing health. There’s a full interview with him ahead of Sunday’s National Football League Final, is in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.
Galway publican reflects on traumatic journey that ended with his abuser in jail
Galway businessman Paul Grealish remembers the moment back in 2000 when he was given a sheet of paper and asked to write about his life. He was on weekend-long self-development course that he’d been sent on by his brother John. At the time, John was managing director of their family business for which Paul and their sister, Joan, also worked.
“The course was probably done in an attempt to make it easier to manage me,” says Paul with a laugh, adding that he “was tough to manage” back then.
He was enjoying the course – until he received that blank sheet.
“I got about four or five sentences in, writing about my early life. Until I got to the primary school part . . . I was in tears,” he remembers. “I was so used to compartmentalising things, I didn’t see the danger.”
In the early 1970s, aged nine and ten years, Paul had been beaten and sexually abused by his teacher, Brother Thomas Caulfield, at Tuam CBS primary school.
He had repressed those memories for nearly three decades.
“You bury the memory, and you bury it as deep as you can. There’s an awareness of something terrible there but it’s too frightening for you to actively remember.”
Paul was so terrified of those memories that he’d lost all recollection of his childhood. He couldn’t tell his story.
He was meant to show it to one of the course leaders – a counsellor, he thinks. Instead, Paul put the nearly-blank sheet before the man and explained what had happened.
Realising Paul’s plight, that man gave him a list of phone numbers for counsellors in Galway.
“Every now and again, I’d look at it and think about ringing them but I didn’t,” Paul says.
However, the abuse that had robbed Paul of his childhood and blighted his adulthood with feelings of guilt and self-hatred refused to stay buried. Finally, he knew he had to deal with it. That journey began in the early 2000s and Paul finally got closure earlier this month when Caulfield was sentenced to 27 months in prison – with the final seven suspended – for his crime.
Read Paul’s full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.