The Peter McVerry Trust has been at the forefront of the fight against homelessness in the capital for almost 40 years. In recent years, it has widened its scope by expanding to the regions and last month, opened its first facility in Galway.
The launch of the Modular Family Hub in the Westside heralds the start of a new chapter in rowing back the tide of homelessness that the city has been dealing with for the past decade – with the Peter McVerry Trust hoping to assist with the Trojan work already being done by charities such as COPE Galway and the Simon Community.
CEO of the Trust, Pat Doyle, says the hub – consisting of fifteen self-contained modular build units – is just the start of their work in the West, with work already underway to source homes for purchase and establish a regional office in Galway City.
The €1 million Family Hub, which welcomed its first families over the past couple of weeks, is made up of two and three-bed modular homes to provide transitional accommodation to families as they seek to find secure accommodation – keeping them out of emergency accommodation and avoiding its many pitfalls, as Pat explains.
“The Westside Family Hub was a pilot project with the Department of Housing and Galway City Council, and we were asked to come on board as partners. The units have a 60-year lifespan and meet all the needs of families.
“We have a family resources unit on-site that’s staffed 24 hours a day, where there’s a family consultation area where we can work with families to arrange move-ons and put in place supports,” says Pat.
The facility is fully equipped with outdoor and indoor children’s pay areas, laundry facilities and each unit has a kitchen and space to allow normal family life to carry on – giving children space to do their homework that they wouldn’t have if they were living out of a hotel room.
“We did some work with families looking at their experiences of emergency accommodation in hotels and B&Bs and the experience for them is traumatic. We asked what the most difficult part of it was for them. Families told us that having no facilities to cook was a particular challenge, and if there was somewhere, they might only have access to it once a day.
“They also told us one of the things was having no facility to do laundry. It can be very expensive to be homeless when you have to send out your laundry all the time to get it sorted, or if not, you’re trying to wash it in the en suite bath,” Pat explains.
The Peter McVerry Trust has fifteen family hubs across Ireland in Dublin, Meath, Louth and now Galway – and they have proven very effective.
“What we made sure we had in all of them was to have separate sleeping accommodation for children so Mam or Dad, or Mam and Dad, had a separate sleeping space – one woman told us that the night she moved in, it was the first time in months that she didn’t have to go to bed at 8pm because her and the children weren’t in the same room,” says Pat.
The charity’s first hub was at Hazel House in Glasnevin where it has thirteen units. Nine families moved through the unit on to more permanent accommodation within six to nine months last year, leading Pat to believe that the Galway facility, with its fifteen units, could see 30 families access secure accommodation within a year.
“The next challenge, once the families are in the hub, is helping them to move on.
“There is a heating and electricity meter in each unit so that residents can learn skills, if they haven’t already got those budgeting skills. Each family will pay a differential rent,” says Pat, explaining that the amount paid is assessed in the same way as rent is calculated by local authorities.
Part of what the Peter McVerry Trust does is to ensure that there is adequate suitable accommodation for families to move into, and through building, buying and leasing properties, families with significant challenges are catered for by the charity as an approved housing body, says Pat.
“Sometimes there are significant challenges, for example, sourcing a five-bed house, or there could be other issues that might make moving-on from a hub take a bit longer. One family might need a house for a person with a disability, but the average is six to nine months.
“If we have a family in Galway who has a particular difficulty, we will buy, lease or build a property. We have identified five potential building sites in Galway and we already have a line of sight to a number of key properties in Galway for purchase. We haven’t landed them yet, but they’re identified.”
When the Peter McVerry Trust went into Limerick in 2016, it had two properties – it now has 50 and is in the process of adding another 40 to that portfolio.
“Our job in Galway will be to lend a hand to the local authority to build and buy property to assist with the housing waiting list,” says Pat.
Galway suffers the same issues as many cities, where there is a shortage of accommodation due to it being a university city with a large hospital – two elements that put severe pressure on the housing market.
“We’re only there [in Galway] about a month but we are hoping over the next few years to develop a portfolio of 100-plus properties. We’re also identifying an office in Galway and we’re in full consultation with the local authority.
“We also do a number of re-builds – there’s a scheme called the Repair and Leasing Scheme. There are a number of properties in need of renewal in Galway and you enter a contract with the Council to do that work, but the landlord must lease it back for at least ten to twenty years and it has to be social housing,” says Pat.
The Trust has already identified a brownfield site in the city for development, he adds. “We identify opportunities and bring them to the Council to see if it can be made to work.”
Reflecting on the current circumstances in light of Covid-19, Pat says it’s inevitable that there will be an impact on housing – with building costs likely to increase by ten to fifteen per cent, but it was a question of priorities for the incoming government.
“In the election, people made clear they want a good-quality health service, good-quality social housing and more of it,” he says, but adds that it will be challenging.
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Titans return to the national league for coming season
TITANS BC is returning to the national league for the upcoming 2020/21 season, one of four new teams that will compete in the Men’s Division 1 this year.
The city side will play in the Northern Conference of the league alongside fellow new sides, Drogheda Wolves and Malahide, along with Ulster University from Belfast; LYIT from Donegal; Sligo All-Stars; and Dublin Lions and Tolka Rovers from Dublin.
That looks to be the easier of the two conferences: Dublin Lions were relegated from the Super League at the end of last season, LYIT finished 5th in Division 1, Sligo finished 8th, Ulster University finished 9th, and Tolka Rovers finished 10th in a 12-team league competition that ran as a single league, rather than split into two conferences.
With four new teams for the coming season – Team Kerry are the 4th new side – Division 1 is returning to a split conference format, and all the heavy-hitters would appear to be in the Southern Conference.
Team Kerry will be joined by fellow Killarney side, St Paul’s, which finished second in the league last season, as well as Cork’s Fr Mathews and IT Carlow, who finished 3rd and 4th respectively.
Limerick Celtics and Limerick Eagles, who finished 6th and 7th, are also in the Southern Conference, as well as last season’s bottom two, WIT Waterford and Portlaoise Panthers.
Titans took a one-year hiatus from the league last season, having endured a torrid 2018/19 campaign when it finished with the worst record in the league, winning just two of its 23 league games to finish bottom of the Northern Conference.
Maree and Moycullen will once again represent Galway in the Men’s Super League, which is also being split into a two-conference format, with six teams in each conference. However, while Titans will be looking north for their main opposition, Maree and Moycullen will be looking in the opposite direction as both have been placed in the South Conference.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
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Group hurling ties to be restricted to supporters of participating teams
NO neutrals will be allowed to attend the opening round of the revamped Galway senior hurling championship which is scheduled to start in little more than a fortnight’s time.
A gathering of 500 – likely to also include the rival players and mentors – will be restricted to each group game, with the participating clubs set to be allocated around 200 tickets each for sale/distribution ahead of the fixture.
A mechanism has still to be sorted for this process, but matches will be restricted to Galway’s three county grounds: Pearse Stadium, Kenny Park, Athenry and Duggan Park, Ballinasloe, along with Loughrea. Killimor was the fifth venue in consideration for hosting senior games, but redevelopment work at the ground has ruled out that prospect.
The full round of 12 group ties will go ahead on the weekend ending July 26, but there will be no double headers. Instead, games at the same venues will be staged four hours apart to allow sanitisation of the various grounds.
Only people with tickets will gain entry to the games and there will be no cash taken at the turnstiles.
Street fight thugs from viral video outside Garda HQ avoid jail
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Two men and a woman who were involved in a ‘staged’ fistfight outside the new Garda HQ in Renmore were warned they will serve prison sentences if they don’t stay off social media for two years.
Suspended sentences were imposed on all three over the incident which was recorded on mobile phone and footage went viral on social media.
The altercation between John Maughan (27), formerly of Rinville Park, Oranmore, who now lives in Dublin, and Patrick Maughan (31), of 122 Laurel Park, Newcastle, was filmed on Patrick Maughan’s phone by his wife, Ellen Maughan (31), who is John Maughan’s sister.
The footage was uploaded that evening to YouTube, where it gained a lot of traction.
Galway District Court heard this week the trio were sitting in their cars when Gardaí arrived at the scene within a matter of minutes.
They were subsequently charged with affray at Dublin Road, Murrough, Renmore, on November 2, 2018, in that all three used or threatened to use violence towards each other, thereby putting other people present in fear for their own safety and the safety of others.
Both men were also charged with breaching the peace.
Garda Pat Casey told the sentence hearing the incident occurred at 2.30pm on the main road between GMIT and the Garda HQ.
He said the men’s cars met, whether by accident or design, at that location where they got out and had a fist fight in the middle of the road.
Judge Mary Fahy asked if the location chosen for the fight, right outside the new Garda HQ, was deliberate.
Garda Casey said the men claimed they met by accident, “but that was where they met”, he added.
“The inference is they did it deliberately outside the Station to make it even better on social media. They are an absolute disgrace to do that in public and to do it in front of their children,” Judge Fahy said.
This is a shortened preview version of this court report. To read the article in full, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.