A Galway homeless and domestic violence charity has recorded a “deeply worrying” increase in the number of women and children it had to turn away in 2015 because of a lack of accommodation.
According to its end-of-year report, COPE Galway was unable to accommodate 680 women and children over the past twelve months – up a massive 43% on 2014 (from 475 women and children).
Of these, there were 50 women with 49 kids who were fleeing domestic violence at home, and a further 330 women and 137 children who availed of support and outreach services.
Chairman John Concannon said: “It is deeply worrying that so many women who are seeking refuge are unable to access safety at the time they need it most.
“However our outreach service has increased its resources in order to respond to and assist women who need to address safety planning and supports.
“In 2015, the outreach service worked with 18% more women providing a total of 750 appointments throughout Galway City and County.
“In the meantime the development of our new refuge continues steadily and we expect to be in construction phase in the latter part of 2016.”
Last week, the charity applied to Galway City Council for permission to covert the former Magdalen laundry on Forster Street to a €2.5m domestic violence refuge.
“Domestic violence continues to be a very serious issue affecting a large number of women and children. Our range of services offers safe refuge; one-to-one telephone support; childcare and parenting support; information about the dynamics of a violent relationship; assistance with legal options and court accompaniment.
“The service participates in local and national advocacy activities with regard to seeking practical solutions as well as social change with regard to the issue of violence against women.
“Our focus is also very much on preventing the cycle of violence and so our staff continue to develop and deliver information sessions for young people around healthy relationships and dating abuse, as well as providing training for health professionals in terms of recognising and responding to domestic abuse.
“The housing crisis has affected our ability to accommodate all those who seek refuge.
“Due to the shortage of private rented accommodation within the rent caps, many women who wish to move on from the refuge are unable to do,” said Mr Concannon.