Surge in homeless women contacting ‘Beacon’

September 26th, 2023 6:00 AM

By Eimear O'Dwyer

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THE number of women availing of a West Cork domestic violence and abuse support service who are homeless has gone up by more than 600% in 10 years.

The alarming figures were revealed at last week’s agm which also saw the West Cork Women Against Violence Project announce it was rebranding as West Cork Beacon.

The group’s 2022 report showed that 64 women accessing the service were homeless – 10 years ago in 2013 there were nine homeless women. 

‘We can take women into emergency accommodation; we have a safe house and we will get a refuge but where are they going to go after that unless the government starts creating more accommodation particularly transitional housing,’ said West Cork Beacon chief executive Marie Mulholland.

She also said that overstretched courts mean survivors are sitting with criminal cases as there are no family law courts in West Cork. ‘It’s not appropriate. It’s another abuse,’ she said.

But, Ms Mulholland said women in West Cork are availing of domestic violence and abuse supports earlier thanks to greater awareness of local services.

‘I have noticed over the years, and I’m delighted to say that actually there are more women coming out to do something or challenging or wanting to do something about the abuse sooner,’ said Ms Mulholland.

‘They’re not putting up with it for as long as they used to, or maybe they can identify it quicker and that’s to do with the awareness that’s out there.’

West Cork Beacon changed its name from West Cork Women Against Violence Project  (WCWAVP) following a decision confirmed at the agm. The rebranding was led by board member Marie Wiseman and the logo was designed by Jenny Dempsey. 

The name change allows them to present the organisation as a multi-support service, with both the Domestic Violence Support Services and the Sexual Violence Support Services represented. 

‘This is an evolution of who we are. It’s not the revolution, the revolution is in the work we do,’ said Ms Mulholland.

The organisation has been working with survivors for more than 20 years and has evolved considerably and continues to expand its reach. This includes the introduction of a new Sexual Violence Support service at the end of August, available to anyone aged 14 and upwards, male or female. And, a new helpline for all survivors of sexual violence has recently been made operational. 

The agm heard that 2022 was another busy year for the project, with the organisation contacted 2,702 times. It supported 255 clients – 252 women and three men – and dealt with 195 new clients.

 The organisation recruited a safe house support worker while an e-safe system for collecting data was put in place. 

The group was also involved in lobbying government to have paid leave for those who have to take time off from employment because of domestic violence. The group also received €5,000 from a mayor’s pride of Cork award. 

See or call them on 027-53847 or freephone 1800 203 136. 

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