“I’d worked all my life and raised a family – suddenly, in my late 50s. I found myself on the brink of homelessness.”
Homelessness is a very real threat today. It can happen to anyone at any time.
This is Evelyn’s story, told by her key worker Heather who works in our Homelessness Prevention Services.
Evelyn never thought she would ever find herself on the verge of becoming homeless.
She’s a woman in her late 50s who worked for many years as a carer and raised a family here in Galway. I first met her last year, when she came to Galway Simon Community, asking for our help to avoid losing her home.
I could see that Evelyn was not just afraid but was also struggling with a feeling of shame that her life had brought her to this point. In one of our first meetings, she said to me “I don’t know what’s going to happen to me.”
In my work as a Housing Support Officer for Galway Simon Community, it has become clear to me that anyone can fall into homelessness. It can be easy to think that homelessness is something that only happens to others, or that people become homeless due to their own mistakes, but I know from experience that this is not the case.
Over the past year or two – as the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have collided with the ongoing housing crisis – more and more people across Ireland, and right here in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon are finding themselves at risk of losing their homes.
Often it takes surprisingly little for someone to find themselves at risk of homelessness. The breakdown of a relationship or a job loss, a rent increase or eviction notice, an injury or illness, a mental health or addiction issue – any of these can make the difference between having a roof over your head and having nowhere to live. For Evelyn, it was a series of small misfortunes. Her relationship sadly ended and then she had job as a live-in carer, with accommodation provided, until her employer told her they were relocating
Just like that, Evelyn had the rug pulled out from under her. She was faced with the very real prospect of having to move into emergency accommodation, living out of a suitcase in a hostel or B&B. It was an overwhelming blow. As her fears mounted, her friend suggested she reach out and contact Galway Simon. Evelyn was shocked – “I never thought I’d ever be seeking the help of a homelessness charity,” she told me later. But as options ran out, she finally decided to come in for a chat.
The day I met Evelyn, she and I had a difficult but productive conversation over a cup of tea. She was clearly overwhelmed by her situation, but by the time we were done chatting, we’d laid out an action plan and I know she felt much better.
In the weeks that followed I helped her put together an application for a Housing Assistance Payment. This can be a stressful process that really takes its toll. To ease her stress, I helped Evelyn explore mental health and well-being support, which she found really useful. Thankfully, her application was approved and so we began searching for a new place for her to rent.
Eventually we found one: a great little apartment in a village in County Galway not too far out of the city. She signed a lease and moved in. Now she is adapting to her new surroundings, getting to know her neighbours and the staff in her local shops.
Through our work with Evelyn, we helped her to avert a crisis and now, she is starting a new chapter. Rather than being homeless, bouncing between an emergency shelter, B&B’s and hotel rooms, she now has her own front door and own space.
Evelyn is far from the only person who has narrowly avoided losing their home. Mike is another person who has been supported by my team this year, a Galway man who was on the brink of homelessness but managed to avoid it with the help of Galway Simon Community. I hope you’ll read his story and reflect on the difference it made to him to have someone to keep him from becoming homeless.
Housing Support Officer
Galway Simon Community
More and more people in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon are at risk of losing their homes.
Please note Evelyn’s name and image has been changed to protect her identity, however her story is very much true.