Homelessness and housing charity Galway Simon Community launched its 2020 Annual Report revealing that the organisation supported 646 local households last year, a total of 1,216 individuals, through their Homelessness Prevention and Housing Services.
Keynote speaker at the virtual launch, Orla Hegarty, UCD Assistant Professor and Architect, said the last two years have brought into sharp focus the importance of home, and the value of community.
“In the toughest of times the work of Galway Simon could not stop, people stepped up and did even more. Home is security and a place of safety, but it gives people the independence and dignity to move on with their lives. Galway Simon are to be commended for this important work,” she said.
Galway Simon Community’s CEO Karen Golden outlined details of the charity’s 2020 Annual Report, highlighting the challenges faced by the organisation as they focused on keeping their clients, staff and volunteers safe from COVID-19 throughout the year.
As the crisis escalated, the charity responded by putting an Emergency Response Team in place to oversee the response to COVID-19 across their services. Despite what the charity referred to as “a hugely challenging period”, they still remained connected with their clients throughout the pandemic and they helped people to find solutions that either ended their homelessness or averted the risk of them becoming homeless.
“It is difficult to convey the incredible response of our clients, staff and volunteers and the deep commitment to keeping each other safe which permeated our community throughout the year.
“The vocational element to our work shone very brightly, as staff and volunteers pulled out all the stops to ensure both the physical and mental wellbeing of our clients were protected”, Karen Golden said.
Despite dealing with what the charity referred to as “a crisis on top of a crisis”, they supported 646 households through their Homelessness Prevention and Housing Services which included a total of 1,216 individuals. The charity’s Homelessness Prevention Services in particular saw a 7% increase in demand compared to the previous year, that Galway Simon say was reflective of the effect the pandemic had on the community.
One such person who was supported by Galway Simon last year was Paul (not real name ), who was offered housing and support through Galway Simon’s Housing First Service in April 2020. Paul described his experience of being supported by Galway Simon Community as “priceless”.
“I lived in America for a good number of years. I was married and lived extremely well. I was a trainer to senators, congressmen and lobbyists. So, I’ve been from one extreme to the other.
“Simon put my name forward for all of this. They knew me for years. I’m not homeless anymore, it took me five or six months to get that sense, I have become used to it again, and that took time. Simon put trust in me, and had faith in me when no one would. That’s priceless”, he said.
Closing out their Annual Report launch, Karen Golden acknowledged the extraordinary collective effort across the entire community which enabled Galway Simon to keep their clients, staff and volunteers safe throughout the pandemic while continuing to support those experiencing or at risk of homelessness in the West.
“The phenomenal community spirit here in the West of Ireland is part of our DNA. We were heartened throughout the pandemic by the imaginative and significant support we received from our funders, supporters and volunteers. It was this support that enabled us to continue our work throughout 2020”, she said.
To download Galway Simon Community’s 2020 Annual Report, visit their website www.galwaysimon.ie