Galway Simon Community
October 31, 2018
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Outline the vision and mission of the Organisation
Galway Simon Community was set up in 1979 by a group of volunteers who refused to accept homelessness on the streets of Galway. With the support of the wider community, we have grown, developed, learned and adapted over the years to become a leading provider of homeless and homelessness prevention services in the region.
At Galway Simon Community, we support a person’s right to security, dignity and well-being in their own home. We are relentlessly committed to finding answers to the questions faced by real people at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness. It is our belief that early intervention is the most effective means of reducing the trauma and cost associated with homelessness.
We work with a clear vision in mind: A community where everyone has a place to call home.
Our core aims are:
To provide accommodation and responsive services to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
To support people in maintaining their tenancies, and enable independence within the community.
To campaign with and on behalf of people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
How has the Organisation developed and tackled issues?
Our services started with a soup run and in 1983 we opened our first long-term housing service. Today, due to the increasing demand on our services and thanks to our funders and supporters, we provide homes to over almost 100 people experiencing homelessness at any one time and we support hundreds more at risk of becoming homeless. Our services have grown to include holistic wraparound services which provide a three-pronged approach of housing, prevention and health and well-being.
Now almost 40 years on from when Galway Simon was founded, the homelessness and housing crisis is at its worst point with more people than ever in emergency accommodation in the West of Ireland, as well as hundreds more sleeping rough, sofa surfing, those who are ‘hidden homeless’ or living in homeless services. Behind each of these numbers are real people; individuals, families, young adults and children who have nowhere else to go.
With virtually no social housing available in Galway and a private rental market under huge pressure from all sides, we have significant challenges ahead of us. This is why, now more than ever, it is essential that we focus on preventing homelessness in our community and keeping people in the homes they already have. Our services are needed now more than ever!
To meet the ever-increasing need for our essential prevention services, our plans for 2019 include:
• Extending our County Galway Outreach Services to reach more people at risk of homelessness.
• Providing additional homes for young people in our Youth Service through new transitional housing units.
• Acquiring additional housing for our new Housing First initiative which will support rough sleepers to transition into a home of their own, while also providing the wraparound supports needed
What has the overall impact of the work been?
We are working with increasing numbers of individuals and families who are at risk of homelessness, and the reasons are multi-faceted.
Already this year (Jan-Sept), Galway Simon Community has supported 468 unique households including 100 families and 252 children. Some highlights within our services include:
• 129 people have been accommodated within our housing services to provide them with a home or a safe place to stay
• Our prevention services worked with 339 unique households to prevent them from becoming homeless
• We have supported 36 people to move out of our housing services into their own independent accommodation and many more have been successfully sustained within their own homes.
The Murphy Family - Nobody should be left hanging by a thread
“My name is Helen*. I have three little girls and the reality is we’re hanging on by a thread. Three years ago, we were nearly left homeless.
I had to give up my full-time job to look after my daughters. Two of them were born prematurely and are living with a range of heart-breaking disabilities. My youngest was born weeks early and we needed to buy lots of equipment to keep her healthy and alive. Bill after bill was stacking up, so we dipped into the rent money thinking…we would work that out later. What else could we do?
The next thing we knew, we were being threatened with eviction. It was terrifying, the feeling of everything unravelling.
I remember lifting the phone to Galway Simon to ask for help. I wanted to save our kids from becoming homeless. Anna from Galway Simon stood beside us every step of the way and helped us fight the battle to keep our home.
Now the situation in Galway is much worse and I know that we could be one phone call away from becoming homeless. One phone call to say “I’m selling up.”
For the moment, Galway Simon are managing to keep the thread from breaking. We hope they’ll always be there for our family and other families like ours.”
What makes this Organisation unique?
We are relentlessly committed to finding answers to the questions faced by real people at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness. We support our clients for however long it may take to reach the best solution for their needs.
We provide services that work to PREVENT homelessness. This is a critical part of what we do because early intervention is key to keeping people in their own homes. If we can prevent people from becoming homeless, the outcomes are much better in that the trauma of emergency accommodation is not experienced. Prevention ultimately reduces the human and economic costs associated with homelessness.
The breadth of our services spans homelessness prevention, housing, health and well-being – this enables us to provide a holistic approach to supporting clients.
Our prevention services are optimised through positive collaboration with community groups, communities and front line services.
The GSC team builds an individualised plan for each client. This plan identifies the key areas that they wish to address and helps them to reach their goals.
We also support the principles of the Housing First model. We believe that the primary need is to house an individual or family and then deliver the supports necessary to sustain that home.
How can the public support this work?
It is the generosity of our supporters in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon that allows us to help so many people out of a crisis situation and change their lives for good. A sense of community and volunteerism has always been an inherent part of Galway Simon Community’s DNA.
We are very fortunate to have amazing, hard-working volunteers who are present in every part of our organisation as well as individuals, groups, schools and businesses who fundraise for our vital services.
We provide different volunteering opportunities across our services and our shops, including full and part-time volunteering. As well as providing information on our website, social media and various locations throughout the city, we regularly attend volunteering workshops and fairs in Galway to promote our volunteering opportunities available to those in the local community. We also have partnerships through volunteering bodies such as Leargas and ALIVE in NUIG.
As we are not fully funded, we do rely on the generosity of the local community to help to keep our services running. We run many different fundraising initiatives each year and we facilitate those in the local community to also host fundraisers on our behalf. Information about fundraising opportunities again is available on our website, social media and various locations around Galway. We do also host group and school talks where our fundraising opportunities are also highlighted.
How is the Organisation transparent and accountable?
At Galway Simon Community, we strive to be transparent and accountable at all times. We believe that our supporters should be informed about the work we do and its impact, but most importantly about how we spend our money.
Our board of directors give their time on a voluntary basis and they are not compensated with pay. They hold meetings regularly and their job is to scrutinise everything we do. Information about our board members is also available on our website.
We are compliant with the Irish Charity Voluntary Governance Code, the Statement of Recommended Practices (SORP) and the Statement of Guiding Principles for Fundraising.
How we ensure transparency and accountability:
• Our financial accounts are independently audited every year
• We continually monitor the impact of our work and its impact on the people we work with
• We ensure regular communication and reporting
All of our financial statements and annual reports are published on our website and can be found on our website https://www.galwaysimon.ie/publications-and-annual-reports/.