“I joined the COPE Galway Homeless Service team in February 2021 and was initially assigned to the Family Hub. That summer, I transferred to the Family Support team where I am currently Acting Team Leader.
We support families who are homeless and who are at risk of becoming homeless. Our service facilitates placements for families with private emergency accommodation providers and assists them to identify routes out of homelessness.”
I felt this was important to be aware of, as people experiencing homelessness often become stereotyped and viewed negatively within society. As someone working directly with people availing of our homeless services, you learn the complex factors involved for a family or an individual who reaches the point of having to declare themselves as homeless and the impact this has on them.
For this reason, our team focuses on empowering those we are working with by giving them the tools, knowledge, and resources they need to take control of their lives and make positive changes. This could mean providing education and training, offering advocacy and support, or simply listening and offering guidance. We acknowledge the difficulties families are facing to secure long-term accommodation or housing, especially in the current climate, and continue to work together to create opportunities for change.
Six months or less is the recommended timeframe for emergency accommodation stays, by which time a solution to a family’s homelessness should be identified. However, we find ourselves working with families for longer periods of time than this due the extent of the housing crisis, the cost-of living crisis and other systemic and societal factors which have brought new challenges to our service.
We have seen many issues arise, including an increase in parents reporting mental health challenges for themselves and their children; shortages in available and suitable emergency accommodation; waiting lists for families to enter emergency accommodation; a loss of hope and motivation and feelings of ‘stuckness’ in homeless services. We have also seen increased tensions among residents within the accommodations due to the length of time spent living in communal settings designed for short term stays.
Even though our clients experience exceptional difficulties and as a service we are faced with many challenges, we have many positive interactions in our day-to-day work. The team works extremely hard on building positive relationships with the families and we are fortunate that families trust us and engage positively, working in partnership with us.
Small examples of our positive interventions range from a family receiving a FEAD* parcel, to assisting a family with completing housing-related forms, listening to concerns or having a conversation about their life.
As well as this we also have the prospect of sharing in our families’ progress, such as their being accepted for a grant scheme; returning to education or work; securing long-term private housing or receiving a social housing allocation and moving on from services, ending their homelessness.
I have a great sense of pride in our work at the Families Service. I have had the opportunity to work with so many different people and have learned so much about myself and others. While I am sure there will be more ups and downs to come, we will face this together and continue to provide a service where all those availing of it feel safe, valued and supported.”