Homelessness and housing charity Galway Simon Community has issued its Spring Appeal, highlighting the challenges experienced by women in homelessness.
More than a third of adults supported by the charity in 2020 were women and CEO of Galway Simon Community Karen Golden explained the importance of women-focused services.
“Homelessness is often associated with men, said Karen Golden, “however approximately one third of adults in Ireland who are homeless are women.
“Of the 750 adults Galway Simon supported last year, 43% were female.”
Karen pointed out that there is sadly a strong link between violence or abuse and homelessness among women.
“A recent NUIG study with Inner City Helping Homeless found that 40 percent of homeless people in Dublin had reported being sexually assaulted, with most saying they would not report it as it would make their situation worse,” she explained.
“Covid-19 has made the situation even more difficult for some women.”
While Galway Simon has always supported women, the charity set up a dedicated Women and Family Service in 2019 to offer specialised supports to women and their families affected by homelessness.
The service works with women to prevent them from the trauma of homelessness and to help them with accessing secure and affordable housing.
It offers a tailored service to women, including mental health support, to assist them in coming to terms with past trauma they may have suffered.
“With the pandemic still with us, we believe that we have yet to see the full impact of this crisis and we know that many women across the West are in need of our support,” added Karen.
“At the same time, our fundraising has taken a massive hit with the closure of our shops during lockdown, as well as the cancellation of many fundraising events.
“We need to safeguard our services, including our Women & Family Service, to ensure that we can be there for people like Triona in our community who need our help.”
Ambassador of Galway Simon’s Spring Appeal, Triona – not her real name – has been supported by the charity over the last number of years. She bravely shared her story and explained that Galway Simon Community gave her ‘a new start in life’.
“I became homeless because I was tired of being beaten. My partner made me feel worthless when he beat me,” Triona said.
“And when I finally left him and became homeless, bouncing from place to place, I felt worthless then too.
“Alone, unwanted, ignored, just sitting on a park bench wondering what I’d done wrong. When you’re homeless, it’s not nice, you know.
“You can’t look at your people the same way, because I suppose they don’t want to know you.”
When Triona first went to a Galway Simon drop-in centre, she was afraid to go in.
“I felt ashamed,” she explained. “But they greeted me so kindly, with a cup of tea and some hot porridge.
“One of the staff put her arm around me and said, ‘Well, we’re going to look after you now’. And they did. They didn’t break their promise.”
Galway Simon Community provides housing and accommodation to over 140 people at any one time across Galway City and County through housing solutions which vary in support levels from 24-hour support to visiting support.
Triona was initially housed through the charity’s Community Housing Service where she shared a house with two other women who had also been through similar life experiences.
From there, Galway Simon helped Triona to find a home of her own and she now lives independently.
“I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the help I’ve had. Galway Simon gave me a chance. They were there to look after me and they’ve helped to turn my life around. Only for them, I know I wouldn’t be here,” Triona added.