Plans lodged for domestic violence refuge

The old Magdalen Convent in Forster Street: to house new domestic violence refuge.

Plans to convert the Magdalen laundry site on Forster Street – for use as a €2.5 million domestic violence refuge – have been lodged with Galway City Council.

COPE Galway has sought permission for modifications to the existing building, which is a protected Structure, and extensions to provide nine self-contained residential units, staff accommodation, offices, outreach facilities, meeting rooms, playrooms and a childcare facility.

COPE provides a range of services for women who are victims of domestic violence and the proposal is part of a planned replacement for the existing facilities at Waterside House which are no longer fit for purpose.

“The current building is based on a family living in one bedsit-type room, with no access to cooking facilities and no outdoor play area for children.

“The [Magdalen] site, which is surrounded by a high wall is ideal for the purposes proposed in this application. It is very secure and private, affording women and children – who seek refuge and support due to domestic violence – physical safety and psychiatric reassurance.

“Its central location and proximity to local and regional public transport hubs and services makes it easily accessible for women who need refuge and assistance,” the application reads.

In 2015, COPE was unable to accommodate 242 women and 355 children due to lack of space at the refuge.

The new refuse will be the only 24/7 accessible refuge in the western region.

“It will see a 50% increase in the number of refuge accommodation units available, an increase from six to nine, and a fit-for-purpose facility available to address a continuing need in the city.

“In 2014, a total of 75 women (and 85 children) were provided with refuge at Waterside House with an occupancy rate of 95%.

“The suite of services currently provided by Cope Galway from Waterside House and proposed to continue to be provided from this site include an Outreach Support service for women who are in abusive relations and who need support and information on their options. Annually, this service supports in excess of 150 women.

“Between June 2008 and January 2013, COPE Galway conducted an exhaustive search for a suitable site from which to provide refuge and support services for women and children who are victims of domestic violence,” the application reads.

In 2013, COPE secured a 99-year lease on the Magdalen laundry site from the Sisters of Mercy.

The project is expected to cost €2.5m, with €1.16m of this being funded by the Department of the Environment.

A decision is expected from planners in February.