Meet our Frontline Service Staff at Galway Simon Community

Karen Feeney Service Manager

Meet some of our dedicated team at Galway Simon Community working across our varied frontline services and find out about the impact that Sleep Out funds have on these services.

In this blog we hear from some of our frontline staff about their work, and the impact of funds raised through the Sleep Out on their service areas: We’ll meet Tommy, a Housing Support Officer, Aisling, our Service Manager for the Youth Service and Community Based Housing, Andrea, a Service Manager for our Prevention Services in Co. Galway, Housing First, and our Community Detox Service, and Karen, the Head of Client Services here at Galway Simon.


Tommy Walsh – Housing Support Officer, Community Based Housing

Can you explain what Community Based Housing is?

Community Based Housing (CBH) is transitional accommodation for our clients who live independently within the community with visiting support from myself and other members of the team from Galway Simon Community.

Tell us about your role as a Housing Support Officer.

Effectively, I manage the tenancies of those in CBH throughout Galway City. I help support my clients to reengage in groups in their communities like Men’s Sheds, Football and Sports Clubs, Music, Yoga Classes, and build relationships there with minimal support eventually from people like myself and have independent, autonomous lives.

How important are the Sleep Out Funds to your work?

The funds raised through the Sleep Out are vitally important to the work that we do. They help for example to kit out the houses that our clients are living in. We recently had some new kitchens put in for example. There’s a lot of wear and tear on the properties that these funds help us to fix, and just to make the house a home, to give it a homely feeling. It’s really important for that.

CBH is a very dynamic service with a lot of moving parts, and sometimes gaps come up that we need to plug with an injection of funding: It could be emergency documents or paperwork that requires large fees that people don’t have, so we can immediately draw on that to help people. That’s a huge help.

One of our clients is in third level education and required technology, laptops, etc. to be able to do his studies. The funds raised through the Sleep Out allowed me to make that happen and he’s now completed his second year in university as a direct result of that.


Aisling O’Hara – Service Manager for the Youth Service and Community Based Housing

Can you tell us a bit about the Youth Service?

In the youth service we’d get a lot of young people coming out of the care system. A lot of them would have gone through foster care or engaged with the aftercare system and have had nowhere to go. At that point, we take them into the service and support them. A lot of the young people coming out of care will have never developed the core skills that they need for independent living, so the supports that we provide on a day-to-day basis help fill that gap; looking at employability, doing CV workshops, supporting them with driving lessons, getting back to college, getting back to work, even using an oven, a washing machine, and cooking.

We explore with the young people what they’d like to do, what they feel they’ve missed out on. We do some projects with the young people that are participatory, for example we recently ran a graffiti workshop to make the youth service a youth-friendly space. There’s a lot of work at the minute going into those pieces. On a day-to-day we also support people with mental health appointments, budgeting, house viewing preparation; all of those things are really important.

Graffiti image- Galway Simon Community-youth project

How important are the Sleep Out Funds to your work?

The funds raised through the Sleep Out enable a lot of things to happen in our service. For example in our Youth Service we can support people to come in to their own home, feel welcome, their space is their own space. Everything in their home, for the first time maybe in their lives, is warm, friendly, and inviting. The environment piece is really important and the funds enable us to do that for people.

The funds help out in a really practical way, going directly towards counselling services for the young people. Bear in mind that a lot of these young people have come from backgrounds of trauma. We can have occupational therapy assessments done, environmental assessments, and sometimes that’s really important because young people have never had the opportunity in some cases to have ownership around their space and an understanding that if they do have extra needs how to navigate that.

A client that we’re currently working with from the Youth Service would have come from a care background and had a very traumatic upbringing. Thanks to the funds raised from the Sleep Out they’re now participating in EMDR therapy which goes back into childhood trauma. The client is engaging so well and really has turned a page, they have their fullness for life again. It’s really nice to see.

Some of the funds would go to the kit-out of the properties. An example that comes to mind is a client from the youth service who’d been through multiple foster care homes, and when he came in to us here at Galway Simon Community, we gave him the opportunity to make his space his own. He participated in that with the staff members in the service and he said to us that in every foster home all he’d wanted was red brick wallpaper, and he never got it, so we were able to do that really small piece of work which was such a big thing for him.


Andrea Fitzgerald – Service Manager, Galway Prevention Services, Housing First & Community Detox

Can you tell us a bit about your services?

The Prevention Service for the County was set up originally in 2011. Ballinasloe Resource Centre was funded through the local authority to target specifically people who were rough sleeping at the time in East County Galway. That service has since developed into quite a robust and busy service. We’re reaching into areas like Tuam, Portumna, Loughrea, Gort, and Ballinasloe, and any small village in between really. We have a very dedicated team working on homelessness prevention and tenancy sustainment out there. A lot of the referrals coming in are for people who have notices to quit, people who are in precarious accommodation, and people who are struggling to understand where they need to go with a particular problem. Our aim is always to keep people in homes. Any day that a member of our team out in the county can prevent someone presenting to homelessness services is a really good day.

The Housing First initiative started in 2019 in the city and then we got further funding to roll it out across County Galway, Mayo and Roscommon. Community Detox was also set up in 2019 to support people who wanted to detox from benzodiazepines in their own local communities.

How important are the Sleep Out Funds to your work?

The funds raised through the Sleep Out have a massive impact on my services, particularly the prevention service in Co. Galway. The reality of it is that we wouldn’t be able to keep that service afloat if not for part of the funds that are raised through the Sleep Out, because the service has expanded so vastly over the past number of years.


Karen Feeney – Head of Client Services

Tell us about your role.

I have an overview of all of the services that Galway Simon Community provides, from our High Support Housing to our Prevention Services; it’s a continuum of what stage people are at in terms of homelessness.

Can you tell us a bit about your services?

Galway Simon Community for more than 40 years has been providing services in Galway, and more recently into Mayo and Roscommon. We started by providing accommodation to people who had high support needs, high social care needs, but over time, as people moved on from supported accommodation and moved their own homes, we began to work with them to make sure their tenancies didn’t break down. Particularly over the past six or seven years with the explosion of the housing crisis, we’ve had more and more people reach out to us when they are at risk of homelessness. We would provide ongoing support as needed to help people manage the things that might put accommodation at risk.

How important are the Sleep Out Funds to your work?

The funds raised through the Sleep Out can often be used to put the practical supports in place. There might be a need to give financial help to pay rent arrears, a deposit, bedding, heating oil; so that when people come from a very lean or threadbare place that you’re able to give them a good a start as possible in a new home. You take away the stress and the anxiety of homelessness as quickly and effectively as possible, and the funds raised through the Sleep Out in particular are central to how we do that.


The funds raised through the Virtual Sleep Out for Simon are crucial to our services here at Galway Simon Community. By signing up for this year’s Virtual Sleep Out, you can help make a real difference in the lives of those most vulnerable in communities across the West. 100% of proceeds from the Virtual Sleep Out for Simon 2021 will go directly towards safeguarding Galway Simon’s vital Homelessness Prevention Services. Register now.