next step

Lives changing: Adjusting to a new home after homelessness

The final step out of homelessness isn’t easy.

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GOING BACK TO living in your own home after being homeless for a long period can be difficult.

Even before that, applying to a local authority for social housing is itself full of problems when you have no permanent residence.

It’s just an example of the interconnected issues that mean addressing homelessness requires a range of actions at the same time.

Among the work that it does in the areas of domestic violence, addiction and rough sleeping, Cope Galway also places a specific emphasis on resettling homeless people into their own homes.

The charity’s day centre provides support for people as their housing needs are being assessed. Their resettlement and tenancy services are focused on the period after that though, for people who may need help adjusting to living independently.

“Often it’s very simple problems and people would need the same kind of supports,” says Claire Kelly of Cope’s resettlement and tenancy support services.

“With electricity providers, sometimes they have arrears and they are trying to get a renewal. They are negotiating with landlords and people can struggle with the €300 deposit. There can even be problems when people don’t have bank accounts.”

Away from the financial aspect, day-to-day living is also affected with homeless people who’ve been using support services often becoming dependant on others and nervous about leaving that behind.

“If people are homeless for more than nine months then it does become an issue,” explains Kelly.

Towards independence

Cope’s Towards Independence Project is a resettlement scheme that acts as kind of a halfway house for formerly homeless people to adjust to the routine of living by themselves again.

It’s a house with six men that also seeks to help them address the underlying factors that contributed to their homelessness.

“People have more autonomy there, they cook their own meals, they buy own food, they devise their own plan for the day,” says Kelly.

Cope’s deputy CEO Martin O’Connor says that people living in homeless shelters “can become very institutionalised”:

The longer someone is homeless – it’s a bit like moving home to live with with your mother, the longer you’re there the less skilled you become- you don’t have to wash for yourself, you don’t have to cook for yourself.

Other mundane life skills like budgeting often have to be re-learned while other more serious issues like guarding against relapse for addiction problems need greater care.

One of the men living in the Cope’s transitional accommodation is Paul*. The 36-year-old says he has been sober for the past four months but is an alcoholic with drug addiction problems having been a user of both since he was 14:

I could blame a lot of things but I had a choice. I was bullied at school. I remember taking my first joint and thinking- “this is great”. It just kind of escalated from there and peer pressure came into it too. I trained as a chef and found the work really intense and it was a lot of pressure – which fuelled my addiction. I had to leave my job as a chef because I knew I wasn’t able to fight addiction while working in that job.

Paul says that he struggled at first with the homeless support centres he was using because of the prevalence of other addicts.

“You’re in an environment with recovering addicts and some people who aren’t ready to give up yet. I think there needs to be separate services – one for people who need shelter but are still using and one for people who are recovering.”


Part of helping people towards more structured living is giving them the opportunity to work. Cope does this by working with volunteer organisations in the Galway area as well as integrating their own services.

Their community catering service provides food for older people and this can be staffed in part by people from the resettlement scheme.

Paul is one of those who wants to use volunteering as a way of moving from homelessness to the next part of this life.

“I had to leave my job as a chef because I knew I wasn’t able to fight addiction while working in that job,” he explains.

“I don’t want to be a chef anymore and I’m going to do voluntary work while I figure out what I want to do with my life.”

Credit for Homeless Ireland caption: Pic: Andrew Bennett /Flickr

- Additional reporting by Cliódhna Russell

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