These are the stories of some of our clients at Galway Simon Community who have generously shared their experiences of homelessness with us. In each case, Galway Simon was able to intervene and put the right supports in place to ensure that they did not become homeless. Behind every statistic is a person, we hope that these stories help to put a human face on the issue.
We hear from Aoife, a young person who was faced with the potential of homelessness as a student, Josh and Caroline spoke to us about how Galway Simon helped them to break the cycle of homelessness they found themselves in and prevented them from reentering homelessness, and Helen shares how Galway Simon prevented her young family entering emergency accommodation when their landlord decided to sell the property. Our clients come from diverse backgrounds and no two stories are the same. Their stories give an insight into the complexity of the situations that may lead to someone finding themselves at risk of homelessness. They also help to shine a light on some of the challenges of the current housing crisis.
Aoife, now a university graduate, reflects on the challenges with accommodation she encountered as a student. After exiting the foster care system at 18 and completing her Leaving Certificate, Aoife was offered a place on a PLC course and secured rented accommodation in Galway. She encountered issues shortly after entering the rental sector however
“I didn’t know the worries and the dangers of going into rented accommodation; I just picked the first place I saw. Then I found out last minute that the landlord was about to sell the house and I had nothing saved. I didn’t have anywhere to go”
Aoife’s situation was further complicated by additional healthcare needs. Without any family to turn to for support, Aoife reached out instead to Galway Simon Community. Fortunately, Galway Simon was able to give Aoife a place to stay in our Youth Service, and she also received other supports including counselling, and was encouraged to continue on her pathway in education. She was provided with financial advice, healthcare support, and life skills which enabled her to live independently. Since reaching out to Galway Simon Aoife has successfully completed her undergraduate degree, has been offered a provisional place on a master’s degree course, and plans to pursue a PhD. She also advocates on behalf of young people who have come from care backgrounds, particularly in the area of ethics and promoting awareness of housing solutions. She says of her experience that “I shouldn’t have had to rely on services like Galway Simon, but if I didn’t have Galway Simon, I don’t know where I’d be right now”.
Aoife also shared with us how her experience changed the way she viewed those experiencing homelessness “when you hear the word ‘homelessness’ you genuinely think drug-users and, you know, old people”. A view she no longer holds after her experience and having met other clients of Galway Simon’s.
Last year’s Sleep Out helped to raise enough funds to provide 20 young adults like Aoife aged between 18 – 25 with access to vital counselling and occupational therapy supports.
Josh & Caroline’s Story
Josh and Caroline are a couple who found themselves trapped in a continual cycle of homelessness before they reached out to Galway Simon Community for support. The couple, who now have their own place to call home and are expecting a baby, reflect on their experiences with homelessness and how Galway Simon were able to support them on their pathway to a homeless free future for their family.
Josh was particularly vulnerable to homelessness, having come from a family with a history of this issue. He first became homeless when his mother passed away and he lost access to her home that she had been renting. Caroline became homeless due to a breakdown in her relationship with her family. The couple, who have been together for 5 years, had been staying with family, friends, in hostels, and rough sleeping, before coming to Galway Simon. Since then, Caroline has been able to mend her relationship with her family, and Josh has integrated into the family after his own mother and sister passed away. “They look at him like a son”, says Caroline of her family’s relationship with Josh. Galway Simon is providing Josh with ongoing counselling support for the challenges he’s experiencing with his mental health.
After their period of unsecure accommodation and homelessness, Caroline and Josh were supported by Galway Simon’s outreach Community Support Team in securing private rented accommodation, “I knew it would be back to square one again if we didn’t get that place”, Caroline says. Josh echoed his partner’s sentiment, saying “Once you’re homeless on the streets it’s hard to get out of it”. Galway Simon assisted the couple with practical supports that enabled them to break the cycle of homelessness they found themselves in and ultimately prevented them from reentering homelessness. The couple are thankful for the shelter and security their new home provides.
Without the help of the Galway Simon , the couple say that they would still be sleeping rough, “we wouldn’t have been able to afford to get the apartment” – “we’d still be homeless”. Last year’s funds helped support over 500 individuals and families like Josh and Caroline’s.
3 years ago, Helen and her family were faced with an eviction notice and the reality of crisis emergency accommodation. Thankfully they turned to Galway Simon for help and have since been placed in a home suitable for the family’s needs with access to regular support. Helen explains how this situation arose and how the life of her family has changed since Galway Simon’s intervention.
Things got especially challenging for Helen and her family when her third child was born prematurely at 31 weeks. The infant’s medical needs rapidly became “out of control” and the family were forced to dip into the funds they had reserved for rental payments to cover the cost.
“I had a full-time job for many years but I had to give it up to look after my daughters. Two of them were born prematurely and are living with a range of heart-breaking disabilities.”
“We couldn’t keep up with the bills and I remember lifting the phone to Galway Simon to ask for help. We were utterly worn out. We didn’t know what to do next. But we would have done anything to save our kids from becoming homeless.”
Helen described the support that Galway Simon offered at this time as “practical and immediate” and included liaising with their landlord to set up a plan which enabled the family to remain at the house. However, the relief was short lived as during Christmas 2018, they found out their landlord was selling their house. The family were “devastated”, having rented there for 10 years. Galway Simon ensured that the family didn’t end up in emergency accommodation. Instead, Galway Simon were able to provide the family with a home of their own, which has been fitted out to support their needs thanks to the funds raised through the Sleep Out. In their new home, which is one of Galway Simon’s Community Based Housing properties, their children now have their own bedrooms, which has led to a good night’s sleep for all the family.
When asked how does it feel when you close the door of your own home? Helen said “It feels safe”.
The funds raised through last year’s Sleep Out enabled Galway Simon Community to fit 12 new homes for families like Helen’s.
As these stories show, homelessness affects individuals and families across a broad spectrum of our community. In the words of Karen Feeney, Head of Client Services, “nobody knows quite what can bring them to the circumstances where they can’t sustain a roof over their heads”.
It takes a lot for our clients to come forward and speak about their encounters with homelessness prevention. We appreciate their generosity and openness in sharing their stories with us and our supporters to shed a light on the challenges they face in their lives.
If you’d like to get involved and help support our homelessness prevention services, you can register for the Virtual Sleep Out for Simon 2021 and help raise much needed funds for this cause. More details about the event are available here.