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Published on: Covid-19

Antonio Lopez — Covid-19 Away from Home

“I knew there was really nothing I could do there and Galway Simon needed people, so I decided that I was more useful here in Galway.”

As the housing crisis and Covid-19 pandemic continue, our team of frontline staff and volunteers are still working relentlessly to ensure that we do everything possible to keep those within our community safe at this very difficult time.

At Galway Simon, we have many volunteers and staff members from around the world. Since Covid-19 hit, many have had to make the difficult decision to stay in Galway, or return to their home countries. Meet Antonio Lopez, a member of our team who was faced with this difficult decision.

My name is Antonio Lopez and I am a relief Housing Support Officer with Galway Simon. I first started out with Galway Simon in September 2018 as a Full-time Volunteer and I have worked as a relief worker since October 2019.

Being a relief worker means that I go where the need is greatest across the services. This has meant I’ve been able to work across both our Housing and Prevention services so I’ve been in every service in Galway Simon Community. The work can vary quite a lot from service to service.

When I first started looking at volunteering through the European Voluntary Service (EVS), I remember seeing Galway in one of the advertisements so I looked up more information and I was delighted with what I saw. Galway seemed to have all the good things of big cities but with the look of a lovely town so I decided I would come to Galway.

I think being a volunteer gave me a different perspective and I’m better at this point because I was a volunteer.

When Covid first hit Ireland, it was really tough. Everything happened so quickly and I remember people started to leave to go to their home countries.

I honestly didn’t know what to do, whether to stay here or go home to Spain. But I spoke to my family and they said they were fine. I knew there was really nothing I could do there and Galway Simon needed people, so I decided that I was more useful here in Galway. I always worry about my family but I speak to them every week and thankfully they are all fine.

Dealing with Covid-19 in the services has been a huge adjustment but it’s become much easier and now it feels almost natural. The clients have adapted so well and they’ve been so responsible with this new situation we’re facing.

I’m part of the Galway Simon Music Project and that has been one thing that’s been fantastic over these last few months. The rehearsals went virtual, and even though in the beginning we had a few hiccups, I think we’re doing great now. We recorded a song recently as a group and I remember when Brian, one of the group’s leaders, played the song back during a rehearsal, it sounded fantastic, even professional. It’s great to have something like this to work on and to look forward to.

I think it’s great that we’re taking advantage of the situation we’re facing to make new things and learn new skills.

Obviously one of the biggest fears and thank god we haven’t had to face it, is if any of our clients got infected with Coronavirus. Even though it seems unlikely right now, we can never be sure. The response from Galway Simon to Covid-19 has been so positive and now we have the resources to face another wave if it does come.

Antonio Lopez
Housing Support Officer

The Coronavirus pandemic has brought about untold changes for us all. For those facing homelessness, it is a crisis within a crisis. Before the pandemic, our services were already stretched more than ever in our 40-year history, and with an inevitable economic crisis looming, we are bracing ourselves for an even bigger increase in the demand over the coming months.

There has never been a more important time to show your support for Galway Simon. If you can manage it in the current circumstances, please consider making a donation today.