My name is Elsa Edwardson and I have worked with Galway Simon’s Community Support Service since it was set up in 2011. Before that I worked in various roles across our Supported Housing Services. I’ve seen so much change since I first started with the organisation in 2002 because of the homelessness and housing crisis. My role now is focused on helping people to maintain their homes and to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.
Since Covid-19, we’ve had to change the way we support our clients. For example when we first start supporting someone, we need to draw up a support plan which involves going through some personal information. Before Covid, we could invite clients into our office to go through things face-to-face, to make sure it was done in a private setting but I suppose that’s not really appropriate now. A lot of this work is being done over the phone.
Recently I met a client in Eyre Square, we found a quite spot to sit just so I could meet him face to face because I’d only ever spoken to him on the phone. His circumstances have changed completely since Covid-19 has come along. He had been working before Covid and had a home, but both of these things are now gone. He’s been staying with a friend and he’s been told his job may not be there for him after lockdown. So he’s lost his job and his home.
It’s very hard for somebody to be positive when everything that’s made them safe in the world is gone.
So meeting somebody face to face sometimes is the only way to make that connection to go over the more personal and difficult things. I think there is a bit of a limbo period going on at the moment, everybody is in lockdown and people aren’t being evicted. I am quite concerned about what happens when lockdown is lifted, I think there’s going to be a knock-on effect, tenants that may have struggled to pay rent during lockdown due to loss of earning and could be facing notices to quit. Even things like setting up viewings for properties has been problematic, they haven’t been happening as much during lockdown and this can be very frustrating for people searching for private rented accommodation.
My fear is that there’s something being stored up for the future and there’ll be another wave of people in crisis homelessness after lockdown has been lifted.
There have been some positives that have come out of Covid-19 though. One gentleman that I have supported through homelessness into his own home, had historically always struggled with money management, sometimes not having enough to get food for himself, leading to problematic borrowing, stress and poor mental health. We had worked closely together to address these issues and his budget skills had improved. I have not been seeing him in person as regularly as I usually would, due to the Covid restrictions, I was concerned his budget plan may suffer, but he has not only managed his money perfectly but has built on his skills we’ve worked on, gaining in confidence and finding strategies that work for him.
It’s been really encouraging to see somebody step up to the plate and managing so well with something that they struggled with so much in the past.
The other positive has been getting people up to date with different technologies. A lot of our clients would have quite old phones so they’re just happy to text. But the world is moving on so it’s been a real good opportunity to get people to think outside of that. It’s opened up a lot for people who maybe have been at a bit of a distance before. It allows them to be able to talk to their children or family members in a way they maybe haven’t before, and to join in groups within Galway Simon, like the Music Project.
A lot of people are worried to go out, and understandably so, but coming to work for me has given me purpose. I’m thankful that I’m a frontline worker and I can still talk to clients and my colleagues every day.
Community Outreach Worker