WOMEN’S REFUGE FEELS THE STRAIN

Length of stay at centre has “almost doubled” in a year

Women seeking the services of the Oasis House Refuge are staying there for lengthier periods, underlining both the level of domestic violence in Waterford and the city’s escalating homeless problem.

Speaking to The Munster Express, Amy Fitzgerald and Sabina Rogala of Oasis House said the latest figures revealed that those seeking refuge at Morrison’s Road had stayed for “almost double” the time during 2015 when compared to the previous year.

Domestic abuse, family and social issue

“In terms of admissions, last year, we had a total of 90 women and 95 children staying with us for varying periods of time,” said Ms Fitzgerald.

“And what’s interesting is that of those women, 57 were due to Domestic Violence (DV) and 33 were related to homelessness.”

While these figures represented a decline on 2014 (137 women stayed at Oasis House in 2014), Ms Fitzgerald explained why.

“That’s because the length of stay has almost doubled, from 25 nights to 42. On face value, you might look at the statistics and conclude, oh great, that’s something positive, there are less admissions – but it’s also important to stress that these lengthier stays are certainly tied into the increased level of homelessness and the lack of available rental property in Waterford.”

She added: “The cheaper and more accessible accommodation in the city is generally being taken up by students, and of course that’s not the students’ fault, but it clearly presents another obstacle for mothers and their children who are being forced out of their homes, be it because of a violent spouse or partner or due to a change in financial circumstances…

“Added to that, there’s an ongoing difficulty in Waterford with the HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) scheme in that it doesn’t match up with rent amounts in the area.”

These figures illustrate the need for an increase in crisis accommodation across the city and why organisations like Oasis House, which have had their budgets cut consistently since 2008, need greater State support.

At full capacity, Oasis House can cater for 16 women and approximately 25 children. There is also continuous provision made for four specifically allocated homeless beds through referrals they handle from Waterford City & County Council.

Said Ms Rogala: “These beds do not need to be allocated directly due to domestic violence – such women may be homeless for a variety of other reasons.”

Amy Fitzgerald stated that Oasis House was “permanently oversubscribed…as most women’s refuges in the country are”.

Amy and Sabina were among the Social Work Action Network groups represented at WIT’s College Street Campus on Wednesday last as part of the ‘16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence’ campaign.
Oasis House can be contacted via its 24-hour helpline, Locall 1890-264-364

Domestic Violence: the cold, hard stats

* Eight per cent of women in Ireland have experienced sexual violence by a partner or a non-partner since the age of 15.

* Fourteen per cent of women in Ireland have experienced physical violence by a partner since the age of 15.

* Thirty-one per cent of Irish women have experienced any form of psychological violence from a partner at the age of 15.

* Twenty-six per cent of Irish women said that they have experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner or non-partner since the age of 15.

* One in four Irishwomen have endued physical and/or sexual abuse since the age of 15, according to Safe Ireland.

* A 2015 Central Statistics Office report stated that there were 2,055 sexual offences during 2014. Eleven women were victims of murder or manslaughter in 2013 (CSO 2015).

* With thanks to Rebecca Beegan

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