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Gerald's Story

Homelessness at any age can be soul destroying. But having spent your life working hard, paying your dues and believing that your more difficult years are behind you, homelessness at 60 can be particularly hard.

*Gerald, originally from Co Clare, left for England as a teenager, working on building sites around the country until he came back to Ireland 15 years ago to work in construction. Like many others, he lost his job five years ago during the downturn, but it wasn’t until he was given notice from his long-term rental property that things hit rock bottom for Gerald.

“It was the first time something like that happened in my life. It was awful; I literally had nowhere to go. On one side, I was lucky that I was on my own, that I had no one else to worry about, but it was also very hard being on my own.”

Gerald found refuge in COPE Galway Fairgreen Hostel, where he stayed for a number of months.

Determined to retain as much normality as possible during his stay, Gerald would get up every morning and go for walks. He would leave the hostel during the day, visit COPE Galway Day Centre, come home every evening, watch TV for a while, then go to bed, and do the same again the following morning.

At the hostel, he helped out whenever he could, cleaning or washing up. He says he didn’t mix with many of the others in the hostel, but enjoyed the banter with the staff there.

“I can’t thank them enough,” he enthuses. “They were very good, very helpful. They always did their best. And the food was brilliant. There are a lot of people in there with problems, of course, but the staff at Fairgreen are running a mighty show there.”

A resourceful man by nature, following some dark times, Gerald resolved to do all he could to get himself out of the situation he was in. With the help of the staff at Fairgreen, Gerald, who had been on the city council housing list for nine years, finally secjured an apartment in the city.

“It was very difficult, but I had to accept it until things got better. COPE Galway helped me all the way – with all the trips to City Hall, the support, the chats.

“Homelessness can happen to anyone. I’m 60 years old; I never in a million years thought I’d see myself in that position, but it happened.

I just dealt with it the right way; I didn’t hit the drink, I just kept on and on. I could have gone the other way, but if I did, I wouldn’t be here talking to you today. I kept on going; I had to.”

Gerald believes that it was a mix of his own determination and the constant support and help from COPE Galway that has resulted in his current situation, which he says is “brilliant”.

“Getting my own place was like winning the lottery.”

“Life is brilliant now; I don’t know myself. When you have a key to your own place, it’s wonderful. I love it. I don’t know what I would have done without COPE Galway. Truly, I feel so lucky.

“The whole experience was such an eye opener for me. I thought I had seen it all; I’ve travelled around London and I’ve seen homelessness there – it’s an awful thing. But at the end of the day, it’s you that has to help yourself; you can get so much help, but the rest of it is up to you. And it worked out very good in the end. I’m delighted now.”

*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the interviewee.