Only 200 of the almost 800 women and children who sought safety from domestic violence could be accommodated by County Galway’s leading homeless charity last year.
In its annual report, COPE Galway said that the limitations of the current refuge services in the city and county seriously affected the organisation’s ability to respond to demand.
A significant rise in demand for domestic violence services, up 11% on the 2012 figure, is one of the most startling aspects of the report as the organisation provided safety and supports for 669 women and children throughout the year.
“More people were looking for a service, but we were able to accommodate less,” said COPE Galway CEO Jacquie Horan yesterday.
“The really big problem was that people were not able to move on from refuges or temporary accommodation.”
COPE Galway accommodated 346 single people and families who were homeless last year, and provided support for over 650 people who were affected by homelessness.
“While this represents an overall increase of 12% in the numbers of people presenting for help in our homeless services, the numbers we were able to accommodate in emergency hostels were less than in 2012 (down 9%),” said Ms Horan.
“The reason for this is that a lack of affordable move on accommodation meant that people stayed longer in emergency accommodation (on average 50% longer) because they could not find suitable accommodation to move into.”
She said many people in Galway faced the threat of being made homeless last year after their landlords issued notice to quit, either to raise the rent or to sell properties.
“Rising rents, notice to quit and an inability to secure alternative accommodation are causing an ever increasing number of families to become homeless, many for the first time,” she told the Connacht Tribune.
She said the situation had reached “crisis point” due to rising rents and the lack of construction of new homes. Many properties available for rent in Galway were not accessible to those on social welfare and in recent of rent allowance.
As recently as last month, there were 45 families and 20 single people seeking accommodation with COPE’s assistance, yet effectively there was only one house available.
However, there was also good news for COPE Galway last year when the Sisters of Mercy donated a convent on Forster Street for use by the homeless charity.
Although the new refuge will not be available until 2016, Ms Horan said it would provide a massive boost to the organisation with the development of ten self-contained units.
“This will be renovated to provide a state of the art refuge which will cater for demand and offer much improved facilities in a location which is ideal both in terms of safety and access to local services and supports.”
Throughout last year, COPE also helped older people across Galway, supporting healthy aging at home and lunch clubs which allow people to come together.
Ms Horan thanked all of the people who support COPE’s work across the city and county.
“With ongoing support, COPE Galway can continue to highlight and address the issues facing the most vulnerable in our community,” she added.
Gardaí bid to identify body recovered near Mutton Island
Gardai have launched an investigation following the discovery of a body in Galway Bay yesterday afternoon.
A member of the public raised the alarm after spotting the body in the water while walking on the causeway to Mutton Island.
Galway Fire Service, Gardai and the RNLI attended the scene and recovered the body at around 4pm, before it was taken to University Hospital Galway for a post mortem.
It is understood that the body may have been in the water for some time.
Gardaí are currently examining a list of missing people in the city.
Gardaí investigate fatal Carraroe crash
A man in his 30s has died following a road crash in Carraroe in the early hours of this morning.
At 3.50am, Gardaí and emergency services attended at a single car collision on a minor road.
The driver of the car, a man in his 30s, was pronounced dead at the scene a short time later. A passenger in the car, a male in his 30s, was taken by ambulance to Galway University Hospital. His injuries are not thought to be life threatening.
The road is currently closed and local diversions are in place. Garda forensic collision investigators will examine the crash site this morning.
Land Development Agency rules out Merlin ‘land grab’
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Campaigners have warned the Land Development Agency (LDA) to keep its hands off Merlin Woods.
Local community group Friends of Merlin Woods said that the amenity on the east side of the city is not suitable for residential development.
It has sought clarification on whether the LDA has earmarked part of the recreational and amenity lands for housing, after it appeared on its online database of publicly-owned lands.
In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, the LDA said its database compiles a list of all State lands, not just land for development.
In relation to Merlin Woods, the LDA said: “Those lands aren’t included in the LDA developments in Galway. The lands database is a map-based tool which compiles all State lands and has no reflection on development potential.”
It came after Caroline Stanley of Friends of Merlin Woods raised concern that land within Merlin Woods had been earmarked for development.
“I’d be concerned that it’s marked as residential when it’s in RA (Recreational and Amenity) land. Some is marked ‘open space’ but some is marked as ‘new proposed residential’ on its [LDA’s] database. It makes us wonder why. We’d like clarity and to clear it up.
“The message we’d like to get out there is we need clarification, whether it’s a mistake on the Land Development Agency’s part, or whether it is an area that they consider as a residential area, which the community would be opposed to. We need clarity. It could be something that is in line for development later on, we don’t know, and we need clarity.”
Councillor Owen Hanley explained that the fears around Merlin Woods stem from legislation currently making its way through the Oireachtas that would strip councillors of powers to veto the transfer of land to the LDA for housing projects.
The Bill would also allow Government to direct what public lands – including those owned by local authorities – can be transferred to the LDA for development of social and affordable housing.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.