Women’s refuges in Longford and across the Midlands face a constant struggle to meet demand, whilst funding cuts are also adding to the strain.
“We have emergency accomodation for 19 women and children, and we are running at full capacity approximately 85 per cent of the time,” said Therese Gilchreest of Bethany House in Longford, a facility operated by the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.
“We mainly provide shelter for homeless women, but many of our clients are the victims of physical abuse,” Ms Gilchreest revealed. “We currently have three fully-trained domestic abuse support workers and three volunteers. We also take on about three or four college placements each year.”
The shelter at Bethany House is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the year, and houses women from across the Midlands. Two other facilities in the region, Esker House in Athlone, and Teach Fáilte in Mullingar also provide shelter for victims of domestic abuse, but there are constant fears that the projects will be impacted by funding cuts.
“Our budget is very tight,” Ms Gilchreest admitted. “In recent times we’ve had funding cuts from the HSE and the Department of the Environment.”
Last week, a report in the Irish Independent claimed 3,000 women and children in Ireland were turned away because refuges had no space available.
“Some women may have to approach as many as six refuges before they can find a space,” added Angela Keaveney of Longford Women’s Link, which provides support to women affected by domestic abuse. “The women can’t always travel to these shelters either, because they can be located some distance away.
“The trauma these women have experienced is quite serious. They are essentially fleeing for their lives.”
Unfortunately, many women find themselves returning to refuges on a number of occasions.
“A lot will go home to their abuser for any number of reasons. It may be for their children, or because they can’t find anywhere else to stay,” Ms Keaveney admitted. “At Longford Women’s Link, we provide support before and after the women seek refuge,and try and help them to see the consequences of going back.”
Bethany House’s Therese Gilchreest concluded with a poignant quote: ‘It’s great that the services are here, but it’s sad that they are needed’.”
Bethany House can be contacted at043 3348136, while Longford Women’s Link can be reached at 043 3341511.