Times are tough for many living in our community. But the community really does care, and that care often turns to support for the work of COPE Galway, which is a local organisation working with a range of people such as those affected by homelessness, women and children experiencing domestic violence, and older people living independently in their own homes.
2015 has been a very challenging year for many people we work with, due mainly to the chronic lack of housing. In 2015 we worked with 646 households affected by homelessness, we supported over 400 women experiencing domestic violence, and we produced and delivered 55,000 meals for older people. Statistics are important, but a view into the lives of those who experience the trauma and the challenges of seeking a way out of homelessness speak volumes.
Quietly spoken, well dressed and articulate, Ann (name changed ) is open and honest in her recounting of her experience of homelessness. She’s anxious that no one finds out about that period of her life - she’d be embarrassed - for herself, her children. It’s just not something you’d ever imagine would happen to a woman like Ann, a mother and grandmother. But homelessness is like that - it can happen to the most unlikely people in the most unlikely circumstances. For Ann, it was a combination of illness, a family disagreement and timing. It’s an experience she’ll never forget.
Ann came to Osterley Lodge, COPE Galway’s emergency hostel for women and families in 2015, and ended up spending eight months, unable to find accommodation due to the shortage in the city at the time. “I had a deposit - money wasn’t the issue. I simply couldn’t find somewhere to live,” she stresses. So what was the experience like? “I was in a state of shock,” she recounts. “I never knew what a broken heart was. I now understand what it feels like to have such a pain in your chest, in your heart, from what happened. Obviously, there were buckets and buckets of tears, but it was great to get it out and have someone listen. Having the structure at Osterley was great. You also had your own little space, so you could go up to your room to read, then come down and socialise with the other ladies if you wanted to. That level of support and kindness that they offered at Osterley really helped towards a level of healing.”
A continued search for somewhere to live proved to be a “huge challenge”, with substandard and over-priced accommodation. “I must have made hundreds of phone calls to different people, and a lot of them wouldn’t even give you the courtesy of letting you view the property”. When three months of searching for accommodation turned into four, and five and six months, she was starting to lose hope. This situation has become typical in our homeless and domestic violence services. After eight months of searching, Ann’s wish for a home was granted and she now has a home through the council. Her strength, along with a lot of help from COPE Galway and the council, has meant that Ann now has her life back on track. She’s feeling strong again, and is very optimistic and about her future. “All the dots connected eventually, so here I am in my nice new home, there for life. I can’t buy it, but who cares? It feels absolutely unbelievably magic”.
It’s also a great feeling for us in COPE Galway to see someone like Ann piece her life back together and be happy again. Our staff play a key role in helping Ann to identify and work through all the issues and obstacles which may have led to her situation, and in finding solutions which will lead to stability and an improved quality of life in a home of her own.
Outcomes like this are only possible when a wide variety of supporters come together to offer their resources. We are grateful to our funders who support our work financially, and also work with us to identify practical solutions and housing where possible. We are also very appreciative of all who support our work financially through any of our fundraising initiatives. Every cent counts for us, but we are especially welcoming of monthly donations which offer us an income source which we can depend on.
The business community of Galway are active in supporting our work all year. However this really comes to the fore at Christmas time. This Christmas our business leaders raised almost €100,000 from their sleepout the night Storm Desmond hit Galway! And the annual Christmas Swim is becoming very much a local Galway fundraising and social event. And because of the donations we received from businesses and the people of the city and county, people in our community received 727 Christmas presents, over 1000 shoe box gifts, 221 food hampers , and over 400 people received Christmas dinners via parties, lunch clubs, and special Christmas events, catered for by our own Community Catering service.
And all of the above is only possible with the wonderful help we get from over 200 incredible volunteers who work with us across our services throughout the year, and the whole community of people in Galway who support our work in so many ways. This also includes the media both locally and nationally who give us a route to bring information and updates to you the public.
And so it is very important to COPE Galway to acknowledge the critical contributions our volunteers, donors and supporters offer to our clients and to thank them sincerely for their efforts. Time and again, we are bowled over by the eagerness, availability and hard work of individuals and groups offering their help. Perhaps they or someone they know has been affected by Homelessness, Domestic Violence, or see how an Older Person in their lives has benefited from services we offer. Perhaps they simply want to serve our community – but without this important work, COPE Galway’s services wouldn’t function. To the Galway community, sincerely, we say THANK YOU.
If you would like to get in touch to donate, volunteer or support COPE Galway, please contact us on 091 778 750 or www.copegalway.ie