Homeless charity hit hard by Central Remedial Clinic controversy

Donations to Cope Galway are down 32 per cent on last December

David Muldoon at Cope’s Fairgreen Hostel in Galway city. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

David Muldoon at Cope’s Fairgreen Hostel in Galway city. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Sun, Dec 22, 2013, 21:46

Storms lashing both the west coast and the charity sector have made it a testing time for Cope Galway’s David Muldoon.

The charity, which works with the homeless, elderly people and victims of domestic violence in Galway city and county, relies on Christmas Day swimmers for its main fundraising event of the year.

Those swimmers have turned out in snow, hail and rain, but gales of the sort hitting the Atlantic seaboard in the last few days are another matter.

As for the turbulence which has hit many organisations since revelations about top-up payments at the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC), Muldoon admits it has affected contributions – even though it is a distinctly local charity, with very loyal support. It has no connection with, and is not aligned to, the Cope Foundation.

At last check, Cope Galway’s figures were down by 32 per cent for this month, compared to December 2012.

Still, Muldoon says it is an opportune time to publicise the fact that Cope Galway had been focusing on transparency and governance before the CRC controversy hit headlines. Its audited accounts are on its website, and all of its salaries are below the levels of corresponding staff aligned to HSE pay scales, he says.

It has recently posted its chief executive officer’s salary – €53,251, part-time, minimum 25 hours a week – on the internet, which also carries a graphic explaining how its money is spent. Its budget this year was €4 million, 79 per cent of which came from HSE West and Galway City Council.

Funding from the HSE has dropped by 12 per cent over the past five years, at a time when demand for services has grown. Grants make up 5 per cent of its budget and donations about 8 per cent.

Emergency shelters

Just over half, or 58.6 per cent, of the total budget

is spent on the homeless, 21.9 per cent on support and shelter for domestic violence victims, 14.1 per cent on senior citizens, 3.9 per cent on fundraising and 1.6 per cent on governance, it says.

The Fairgreen Hostel, close to Galway’s bus and rail stations, and Osterley Lodge in Salthill are Cope Galway’s two main emergency accommodation shelters. This year, 199 men were accommodated and there were 372 admissions to Fairgreen; more than 7,000 hot dinners were made.

Just over 100 staff, who are a mixture of full, part-time and relief, work in the shelters, and provide support and outreach to families and individuals.

The charity provides the only 24-hour shelter for those fleeing situations involving domestic violence in the west of Ireland.

“We have 150 core volunteers who transport those meals, and we couldn’t manage without them,” Muldoon says.

In the past week, Cope Galway has received calls from people asking about its accounts, and, in some cases, telling it they would not be supporting it any more, Muldoon says. “I think we are all being affected by the CRC publicity and unfortunately, it is the people working in the hostels and shelters who are going to feel the impact of any shortfall in funding.

“We don’t have cash reserves, we spend everything we raise, and up to 70 per cent of our donations come during the month of December,” he says.

Weather permitting, a “group jump-in” at 11.30am on Christmas Day is part of Cope Galway’s swimming fundraiser at Blackrock, Salthill.

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