Opinion: The forgotten people of the forgotten county
Donegal is often referred to as the forgotten County, Letterkenny University Hospital is one of the most underfunded hospitals in the state. Donegal has atrocious public transport. There are no railway lines in Donegal and in comparison to the train services of the 1920s we are ridiculously worse off. Public bus services are also deteriorating with the growing of private bus routes to Dublin as well as travel between our rural communities.
Donegal also has one of the most poorly funded mental health services in the state, the rates of suicide are higher than national average and the age category is predominantly men and woman under the age of 25. Underfunded health services and public transport services are just a couple in a long list of factors attributing to Donegal being dubbed the “forgotten County”.
Catching up with a comrade, late one night in a Letterkenny restaurant, it became apparent to both of us looking out onto the main street, a dramatic increase in rough sleepers. In the doorways of chain resaurants and sporting shops closed for the evening, sleeping on cold pavements with loud obnoxious night clubs to their left and to their right, it really highlighted the dire circumstances they tolerate daily. Homelessness is a major crisis currently facing the nation with a strong emphasis on the cities of Dublin and Cork, but what about the homeless in Donegal, or the North west as a whole? Have they been forgotten?
Speaking to Collette Ferguson, Donegal Development Officer for the North West Simon Community, she stresses that you do not have to be sleeping on the streets to be homeless. She explained to me that while rough sleeping represents the severest form of homelessness, the majority of people who are experiencing homelessness or are homeless in Donegal, Leitrim and Sligo are not immediately identifiable as homeless. They are living in temporary housing, on a social housing lists or waiting hopefully for affordable private accommodation to become available.
The North West Simon Community is a not for profit organisation and is an affiliate of the 8 other Simon Communities of Ireland. Each Community is independently run. The charity collaborates with statutory and voluntary bodies To include Donegal County Council, Sligo County Council, HSE, Tusla etc.
North West Simon Community prevented a staggering 180+ families and individuals from becoming homeless during 2017. Homelessness strikes in the hearts of our communities and has the ability to tear apart families, ruin relationships and degrade an individual to a point leading to depression as the person cannot live life happily or contribute to his or her community positively. As I referred to Donegal earlier as the forgotten County, Homelessness can often be hidden from the public eye and therefore makes it very difficult to determine the exact amount of homelessness in our communities.
Tenancy sustainment services (outreach) enables people to remain in their homes and the objectives are to provide support, information and advocacy, improve peoples quality of life and ultimately enable people to do things for themselves.
Activists can take inspiration From the Home Sweet Home initiative of winter 2016 were volunteers and activists occupied apollo house and provided accommodation for over 205 people. Another initiative that young people in particular can take inspiration from is the Cork branch of the CYM’s (Connolly Youth Movement’s) current occupation of a building in Cork city, offering accommodation to the cities rough sleepers.
If you would like to get involved with Simon Community or even learn more about what they do, get in touch with the North West branch on fb:
If you are a young person aged between 16 and 30, living in Donegal and would like to become active in Socialist and Republican politics, contact the Donegal branch of Republican Youth via our fb page:
By Brogan Mc Crossan