Galway Simon Community is marking its 40 year anniversary with the launch of a new campaign entitled Journey Home.
The charity is calling on people in their local community to take action against homelessness now, through either campaigning or fundraising to help someone on their "journey home".
Established in 1979 by a group of NUIG students who refused to accept homelessness on the streets, Galway Simon Community has grown to become one of leading providers of homeless and homelessness prevention services in the region.
It celebrates its 40th anniversary at a time the housing and homelessness crisis in Galway is worse than any time since it was founded.
According to Simon, hundreds of people in the west of Ireland are experiencing the trauma of homelessness on a daily basis - men, women, families, young people and children who have had to put their lives on hold while they face every day without a home to call their own.
Galway native Jacqui O’Dowd, one of the organisation’s original volunteers in 1979, is lending her voice to the new campaign and is asking others to take action with her.
“It’s hard to believe that it’s 40 years ago now since Galway Simon Community was set up," she says. "Back then, myself and the other Simon volunteers would hop the gate at the back of the old Claddagh Palace in Salthill. It was pitch black, but it was our only way of reaching the men who were sleeping rough in the shed.
"Around that time, we were only helping a small number of people, but today 40 years on, I just can’t believe there are hundreds of people in my community who are facing homelessness. We need to take urgent action now, to make sure we don’t see another 40 years of this crisis,” she says.
One of the pillars of Galway Simon’s Journey Home campaign is to ask people to appeal to their local election candidates to ensure homelessness and housing is a central part of their campaign manifesto.
To help people to stand in solidarity with those experiencing homelessness, the charity has created a campaigning booklet: ‘The Journey Home: Galway’s homelessness and housing crisis, and what you can do about it’.
The guide explains the current crisis in the hopes it will empower the community with the information needed to challenge local candidates who are canvassing door-to-door. The guide can be downloaded from the website, galwaysimon.ie
Karen Golden, CEO of Galway Simon Community, says dealing with the current crisis is now urgent.
“As we mark 40 years since Galway Simon Community was founded, I would love to be able to announce that the situation in relation to housing and homelessness in Galway has improved considerably and we are now winding down our services. But sadly, here in the spring of 2019, that goal appears to be nowhere in sight," she sayts.
“I dearly hope we are not still here 40 years from now. I want our country to have moved on from this dark chapter, and I look forward to the day that homeless prevention services are no longer necessary. Until that day, however, we urgently need the support of our local community, through campaigning and fundraising, to help people at risk of, or experiencing homelessness, on their journey back to independent living."
To find out more about how you can help make a change, visit galwaysimon.ie/journey-home