Noel has lost everything during this pandemic… even his beloved Rosie.
Noel was at home, looking forward to a quiet Christmas with his little dog, Rosie, when he got the crushing news from his landlord — Noel had to leave his home…
At almost 70 years of age, he was set on the lonely path to homelessness as simply as that. Even as Noel was on the verge of becoming homeless, he was thinking of someone else.
He was concerned only about his little dog, Rosie. Where she’d go. If she’d feel safe and warm at night. All the things he’d soon need to worry about for himself.
“I rescued Rosie from someone who didn’t want her. She was in an awful state. I gave her a new life,” he says.
The heartbreak of looming homelessness was, for Noel, nothing compared to the grief of having to rehome his best friend.
But even so, he will never forget the cold January morning he closed his front door behind him for the very last time after 14 years as a model tenant.
All at once, Noel lost his home. His beloved dog. And then… the pandemic came calling —
“It was scary. It felt like you were the only person in the world. You’ll be wandering around in the rain and the cold. There’s nowhere you can go to the toilet. You’ve no money to go into a shop so you can use the bathroom,” says Noel.
“That’s if they even let you in. It’s degrading.”
“I had a heart attack a few years ago and I have other health problems,” says
Noel. “I was so worried Covid was going to get me. I was thinking, if it catches me, it’ll kill me.”
Noel was homeless for about 18 months before he received help and support from Depaul Housing, Depaul Ireland’s housing association. Noel is now living in one of the 20 properties they have bought to join the “13 Houses Campaign”.
The majority of accommodations will be assigned to individual tenants like Noel, but there will be some for families and also a group home for people exiting a psychiatric hospital. 13 properties are currently occupied in Dublin, Galway and Drogheda (Co Louth), and they have plans to reach 40 homes in the future.
Housing associations are private not for profit organisations that provide affordable homes, in a similar way as public social housing. Depaul Housing was set up in response to the urgent need to source suitable move-on accommodation for those accessing Depaul’s homeless services, as well as people who are living in other homeless services. Depaul Housing is a subsidiary and a separately constituted company from Depaul Ireland.
Creating a Housing Association is a step forward in the Vincentian work with homeless people in Ireland. Depaul, established in 2002, is the newest addition to the Vincentian Family in the country, which now comprises 9 branches.
Noel’s only been in his new place with Depaul Housing for a few weeks now. But the change in him is dramatic. It’s as if he’s come back to life.
“I’m so grateful that I’ve got this opportunity to get out of it [homelessness].
I’m grateful to every person who helped me along. You will be in my prayers. I only hope you are healthy and prosperous… I’ll never forget this.”
Just to be able to say… ‘I’m going home’, it’s like you’ve won the lotto. I could never say that before.”
“Knowing someone cared, it helped me to have hope,” says Noel. “It made me think… I can get through this.”
Noel speaks to us from the little apartment he’s proud to call ‘home’. If you could only talk to him, you would feel his gratitude in every word. “I feel safe here,” he says. “I wake up in the morning and pray and I say… thank you.”
Today, Noel is focused on carrying forward the kindness you’ve shown him. He was heartbroken to have to rehome his little dog, Rosie. He didn’t want her to be homeless too. He misses her dearly. And he’d love to rescue another dog one day.
But for now, Noel is content to satisfy his nurturing spirit by caring for his neighbour, and the birds in his garden.
“I was given a bird feeder, and a fountain to keep them cool. The little birds come in and I love to watch them, noticing the different species. I’ve blocked off where the cats come in. I don’t want them to get hurt.” says Noel.
“I look out for my neighbour too. She’s terminally ill. I wrote to her and said if she needs any help to call. My legs are still sore but I want to help others… I’d love that.”
Very evocative example of 13 Houses project changing lives through Depaul Ireland’s work. Depaul is 1 of 9 (not 8) branches of the Irish Vincentian Family. Each of the 9 “Faces” in the community daily live the Vincentian charism in support of the most vulnerable.