Plea for premises by Rape Crisis unit
The staff and management at the Wexford Rape Crisis and Sexual Support Service were dismayed last week to find that they were back to square one in terms of finding a suitable premises for the service which, in the first five months of this year, has seen a 30% increase in the number of new referrals.
The group, under the guidance of Centre Manager Clare Williams and board chairperson Mairead Sinnott, had been pushing hard to secure use of the old sergeant's house, a separate building at the former Wexford Garda Station on Roche's Road.
Ms Williams said that they had been in discussions on this property for quite some time and they had got very good vibes in relation to their plan.
However, last week she said they had received word that no State agency had been interested in the main building at the site and thus the site was likely to be put on the market as a full lot.
There had been, Ms Williams said, some interest from two parties but they had not gone any further than that.
'We had hoped that they might let the sergeant's house go as a separate entity but they said no. The buildings run on a joint heating system, all utilities are connected so that was a big complication. It would have been a perfect location but that dream is gone.'
The centre is putting out a plea now to any landlord that might have a suitable property available for two to three years.
'Realistically, we need about 2,000 square metres and, preferably, a homely, residential type of space where people will feel welcome when they come through the door. We could move at a moment's notice and we would be good, reliable tenants.'
Ms Williams said they were aware of some future options but explained that they would be at least two years down the line and they were desperately in need of a premises in the interim.
The chairperson of the board, Mairead Sinnott remarked: 'After the events of the past few weeks, with the violent deaths of two young girls, it shows, more than ever, how much these services are needed.'
Ms Williams added that while the centre did have a waiting list, they were working through it, having increased their number of counsellors from two to five.
But, she pointed out that the number of people seeking help for such issues was only going up.
'In 2013, we had 49 new referrals in the year. By 2016, that number was in the 70s and, in the first five months of this year, we've seen a 30% increase on the same period last year.
'We're getting a mixture of historic and new cases. There has been a significant increase in the number of people reporting recent, sexual violence, particularly amongst young people.'
The Office of Public Works stated that they were 'currently assessing future options for the property which includes firstly identifying if the property is required or suitable for alternative State use by both Government departments and the wider public sector'.
They explained: 'If there is no other State use identified for the property, the OPW will then consider disposing of the property on the open market.'