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Homeless in Galway: 'I lived in my car for four months - I don't have faith in politicians to sort this out'

Noel found himself living in his car following the break up of a relationship.

Noel Nestor.
Noel Nestor.
Image: TG4

A MAN WHO spent four months of his life living in his car and the last 18 months in emergency accommodation has described how he has a lack of faith in politicians to fix the current housing crisis. 

Noel Nestor, 37, is the focus of Tabú: Gaillimh gan Dídean (Homeless in Galway) which airs tonight on TG4. 

Suffering with what he described as “extreme social anxiety”, Noel found himself without a place to call home following the break up of a relationship.

He told TheJournal.ie that he never thought he himself could become homeless in his 30s. He described how his mental health contributed to the crisis he found himself in – a place he said he only escaped with the help of charities like Cope in Galway. 

He explained: “I suppose the big elephant in the room was my mental health. At the time, I would have had extreme social anxiety. It flared to the point where I couldn’t be around people. 

“Before this happened, I was in a relationship. I was finishing college, getting distinctions in every class. I thought life was good but suddenly the relationship finished and I wasn’t able to complete the last module in college. 

“We were sharing a house at the time. We had to go our separate ways. I had a dog at the time and she played a big role in it. I couldn’t find a place that would accept a dog. I ended up in the car for four months. It opened my eyes. I never thought it could happen to me.

“It was torture – don’t get me wrong, I was in a far better position than people you see in tents, but with social anxiety I wasn’t leaving the car.”

Freezing cold nights

Noel said he was never going to abandon his dog – a companion that had helped guide him through the roughest period of his life.

He described the freezing cold he endured in his Ford Fiesta while all the while trying to avoid people. Even heading into a petrol station for a cup of coffee was out of the question at times, he said.

But it was the isolation that made him realise that he needed help. At the beginning, he managed to start talking to people through his anonymous Twitter page @homelessexpress. From here he documented his daily life and the struggles that came with it. 

“I started getting followers and people contacting me. Then a life coach contacted me and was helping me get counselling so I could try to beat the anxiety. 

“My first counselling sessions was in Galway in a shed that was made for bikes. The counsellor came out of her way to meet me there and that’s where we had our first interaction.”

From there, Nestor discussed how, with the help of his life coach, he began to make changes, failing at times, but ultimately ploughing ahead with his recovery. 

He said that Cope Galway was “invaluable” in bringing him back from the brink. 

He said that without their support, he could still be terrified of talking and interacting with people. 

“I’m at the stage now that with the help of everyone I’m a year and a half in emergency accommodation. It’s tough. It’s not really a home but I’m extremely grateful for it. 

“I remember the first day. I just stood at the end of the bed. I hadn’t slept in a bed for months so I just stood there looking at it. I was absolutely elated by it.”

A new career

Nestor is now using his love of dogs as motivation for his career. He works in Doggy Day Care Galway and is learning how to professionally groom dogs.

With the general election around the corner, there is much talk around Ireland about homelessness and housing. Asked if he had any faith in the Irish Government or its alternatives as the election looms, Nestor was open in his response. 

“I think my faith in politicians in general is gone. I think all we do is see promises, numbers and figures and photo ops, and I don’t see any real work on the ground.

“I think they are detached from the suffering people are going through. There are people hanging on for dear life for something to change. But Cope changed my life. They go the extra mile to make you feel human again. When you’re homeless you feel detached from society, like you’re not part of it. 

“For someone to listen to me was huge. I’m not cured now, but now I have the tools to deal with it.”   

Tabú: Gaillimh gan Dídean (Homeless in Galway) airs tonight on TG4 at 9.30pm

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