Staying Safe during a pandemic – When you don’t have a home

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Staying Safe during a pandemic – When you don’t have a home


Reflections from our homeless service staff and clients

Saturday, 14 March 2020 is a day I look back to as the most important date for efforts at a local level in Galway to safeguard the welfare of people who were homeless and particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 as it began to take hold and spread across the population.

An interagency group with representatives of Galway Council, the GP and Nurse of Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) for homeless in Galway City and senior staff of Galway Simon Community and COPE Galway convened in a COPE Galway meeting room early that morning. By the end of that day we had set in motion a range of actions that would make all the difference.

“Some of the most health-compromised and vulnerable people living in shared hostel settings were accommodated in self-contained accommodation units. We relocated the Cold Weather Response to a city centre tourist accommodation setting, with ensuite bedrooms and additional bed capacity. Some families were relocated to self-contained own-door temporary accommodation provision.”

Martin, Assistant CEO

“During the pandemic I found myself in need of emergency accommodation. Through the support and encouragement of the staff I met in COPE Galway Day Centre I made the decision to ask for accommodation support in Glen Oaks. This has been a very positive experience for me and being able to access the Medical Team in the Day Centre also means that I am now in better mental health and moving forward with my life.

Day Centre Client

“People are with us because life has been tough. The sudden threat to wellbeing and new rules to follow has made life even more difficult. We immediately recognised that we would have to work together with residents to keep the virus out of the building.  It meant making big changes in our personal and working lives, from social distancing and wearing masks to assessing ourselves and the residents throughout the day for symptoms”.

Donna, Fairgreen Hostel Manager.

During lockdown, I found things very difficult with everything shut and no place to go during the day. I’ve also been worried about when this pandemic will ever end, if at all, and what life will be like “after-Covid”. Through the support of the staff I have met, I am better able to focus on the positive things and I have even started to attend viewings for longer-term accommodation, which I hope to move to in 2021.

Day Centre Client

“As keyworkers and caring professionals we assist our clients in areas like managing stress and developing and maintaining good personal hygiene.  We remind our clients daily of the importance of mask wearing and hand sanitisation; encourage limiting contacts outside of the building and adhering to the 5km rule to keep us all safe.  As Level 5 continues, constant reminders about hygiene and safety protocol can be frustrating for both key workers and clients. However, everyone feels we are doing the best we can”.

Heather, Residential Hostel Worker, Fairgreen Hostel.

Being homeless is tough at any time but during this pandemic, it can be very daunting, but the protocols, all the staff and structure that is in place here have ensured a very positive experience for this service user.”

Fairgreen Hostel Client.

“We encourage and facilitate online supports for clients with addiction and/or mental health issues. If clients feel overwhelmed or low about the changes in their normal daily patterns, we encourage them to seek out staff support. As key workers, we have had to adapt our work practice and assure our clients that although our one-to-one sessions have become less frequent and shorter in duration, they are still meaningful – supports are still available as before”.

Heather, Residential Hostel Worker,  Fairgreen Hostel.
Staying Safe during a pandemic – When you don’t have a home

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