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Homeless crisis has little sign of abating

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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.

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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