Welcome back to Galway Chamber’s Business of the Week series. This week, we spoke to Karen Golden, CEO of Galway Simon Community as they celebrate 40 years.
I grew up in Galway in the seventies and eighties. Having volunteered with Galway Simon from 2004 to 2011, I returned to the organisation in early 2018 to take up the role of CEO.
Tell us about Galway Simon Community.
Galway Simon Community is a local homeless charity who provide support and accommodation services to people at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness.
The homeless charity was established in 1979 by a group of NUIG students who refused to accept homelessness on the streets. Since then, with the help of its staff, volunteers and supporters, the charity has grown to become one of leading providers of homeless services and homelessness prevention services in the region.
At Galway Simon Community, we support a person’s right to security, dignity and wellbeing 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.
What is the best thing about working in your industry?
The work that we do in preventing homelessness, rebuilding people’s lives and restoring dignity can be extremely challenging, but also very rewarding. The pride, strength and extraordinary commitment of our team – staff, volunteers and supporters – underpins all we do.
How can local businesses help Galway Simon Community?
The housing and homelessness crisis in Galway is now worse than at any time in the forty years since Galway Simon Community was founded. We know that to make sure Galway does not see another 40 years of this crisis, we will be relying on our partnerships with the local community and with local businesses.
Whether your business is small or large, everyone can make a difference.
From once off fundraising initiatives to year-long charity partnerships, we work closely with local business leaders to choose a level of involvement that’s right for their business, that will have a meaningful impact for those experiencing homelessness and that is engaging for staff.
Are there any events/initiatives coming up that people can get involved in?
Galway Simon Community is marking its 40 year anniversary with the launch of our Journey Home campaign. We are calling on people in the local community to take action against homelessness now, through campaigning or fundraising, to help someone on their Journey Home.
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.
Whether it’s a small fundraiser such as a coffee morning or bake sale, taking part in one of our scheduled events such as Dip at Dawn or Sleep Out for Simon, or getting your employees involved in volunteering through skills sharing, your business can make a real difference.
What are the major challenges currently being faced in your industry?
Unfortunately due to the crisis that we find ourselves in, we are seeing more and more people becoming homeless. As a result, we are seeing sustained demand on our services. We continue to concentrate on prevention services which help prevent people from sliding into emergency accommodation. We also accommodate around one hundred people in our services on any given night. The most significant challenge of dealing with the demand in our local community is the strain on our services and the stretched resources.
Is there one piece of advice you would give to someone just starting out within your sector?
Working in the social care sector can be very demanding. Almost every day we meet obstacles that we must deal with in order to support those who need our help. However, it is extremely rewarding being there as someone makes the journey into their own home, leaving homelessness behind them for good.
Unit 18 1st Floor,
Tuam Road Retail Centre,
T: (091) 381828