One in three adults living in homelessness are women
This is Triona’s story told by our frontline staff member Martina who helped her on her journey out of homelessness.
My name is Martina and I’m a Housing Support Officer with Galway Simon. I want to tell you about the struggles women like Triona are facing across the West and about how the support of our community is helping them escape homelessness and make their journey home.
Approximately one third of adults in Ireland who are homeless are women, and in-fact in 2020, over 40% of the adults Galway Simon supported were female. Many women across the West have become part of the ‘hidden homeless’ population, just like Triona was who I met a few years ago through my work at Galway Simon.
Triona fled an abusive relationship and ended up homeless. She reached a point where she couldn’t live with the violence from her partner anymore. Despite her fears, she left. As I have seen in my work over the last 19 years, many women remain trapped in abusive, controlling relationships because often the only alternative is homelessness. This, too, has been exacerbated by Covid-19.
Triona stayed with friends for as long as she could, moving from place to place. She was homeless, but she was doing all she could to stay off the streets. I remember her telling me about that time, “I felt worthless. No-one wanted me.”
Although she technically had places to stay, they were really just places to sleep and it was only a temporary solution. She told me about one of her lowest points – she was sitting on a park bench, asking herself what she could have done wrong. As people passed her, she felt too ashamed to interact with them.
“Simon turned my life around. They gave me a new start in life.” – Triona
Luckily, her wanderings brought Triona to Galway Simon’s Resource Centre. This is when things began to get better for her. “A turning point in my life,” is what she calls it.
Her turnaround began with a simple feeling of welcome – walking in the door to be given a cup of tea and some hot food, an understanding ear and that sense of camaraderie that comes from being with other people who are in a similar situation. Before long, thanks to the generosity of our supporters, Galway Simon was able to offer Triona a room in a shared house, and that’s when I met her.
“One of the staff put her arm around me and said, ‘Well we’re going to look after you now,’ and they did. They didn’t break their promise.” – Triona
When she first came to look around the house, Triona was very shy and attentive but she also seemed shocked that this could be offered to her – some place of her own where she could feel safe. Once she moved in, I began working with Triona to help her boost her practical life skills she felt she needed help with. It also took time and patience, as well as counselling, for her to work on her confidence and self-esteem.
Over time, it has been wonderful to see Triona blossom, becoming more outgoing and comfortable in herself. She had wonderful support from the other women in the shared house, and she worked to create a sense of family.
Triona joined the Galway Simon Music Project, meeting with them every week for a singalong as well as some fun and conversation. Triona has also taken a course in mental health that gave her insights into her own situation, teaching her coping techniques to help manage her mood.
At the start of 2021, Triona’s journey home was complete.
With the help of our brilliant supporters, Galway Simon was able to set her up with her own place. She’s absolutely delighted with it and has come even more out of her shell and into her own. From knitting to pottery and from music to writing, she’s finding all kinds of ways to keep herself busy and to express herself creatively.
All in all, it’s been an incredible transformation. She’s not looking back. She’s got her eyes firmly fixed on the future, on moving forward. Triona herself has told me “I know I’m going to have a bright future, as long as I have the support of Simon.”
There are so many people out there right now who need the same kind of help we gave to Triona. Ireland was in the grip of a serious housing crisis before Covid-19, and it’s only got worse since the pandemic began. The need for our services is more important than ever and our resources are stretched thinner than ever, but the compassion and kindness of our supporters has made a tremendous difference so for that I would like to say thank you.
Galway Simon’s dedicated Women & Family Service offers specialised supports to women and their families affected by homelessness. It offers a tailored service to women, including mental health support to assist them in coming to terms with past trauma they may have suffered.
Many other people like Triona urgently need support, be it to avoid becoming homeless or to find a way back into housing. Their journey home can start with you. If you are in a position to, please give a gift today to help others.
Please note Triona’s name and image has been changed to protect her identity, however his story is very much true.