Edward, one of our Roma Outreach Mediators, shares his story of meeting Ioan, and supporting him out of homelessness.
In any story, if it’s a good story, there is that which is seen and that which is hidden. This is especially true in stories about us, the Roma community. There are the actions we see, a contest of ignorance and prejudice, followed by perseverance and commitment.
Meet Ioan, a 49-year-old Romanian gentleman who has slept outside on a mattress for the last ten years until 2022.
Ioan’s story is a heartbreaking reminder of the struggles faced by those who are experiencing homelessness and dealing with health issues. Ioan found himself in hospital not once, not twice, but three times in one year due to heart failure. His medical situation is complicated, with multiple conditions that require ongoing treatment and monitoring. I came across Ioan by happenstance as I was about to finish my shift and saw him waiting patiently for an appointment with his local doctor. Ioan had a friendly voice that prompted me to ask if he’d like me to accompany him. Ioan agreed saying it would help him greatly. It was then when I learned about his medical situation. It saddened me. The following days I dedicated most of my time in bringing this gentleman to a place of safety, and ultimately to ending his homelessness.
The bureaucratic barriers that Ioan faces, including his lack of access to public funds due to his immigration status and multiple rejections for Universal Credit, further compound his difficulties. It is a frustrating and often demoralising experience to navigate through a complex system that seems designed to exclude or ignore those who are most in need of help. I began investigating about his immigration status, benefits, exploring housing options, medical situation and to learn how to address it better. It was a mammoth piece of work endorsed by the partner organisation which I was working in conjunction with.
Ioan struggled with alcohol dependency. We tried to help him by engaging him with motivational talk; linking him with wellbeing services, medical professionals, and approaching his family and friends for assistance. Everyone was responsive, but nothing appeared to work.
Ioan was placed in a temporary accommodation because he was due for his third heart surgery, so we had to make sure he was rested and hoped he wouldn’t drink. He didn’t; he was sober as a judge all along. It was at that point that I realised there is light at the end of the tunnel. The surgery did not go as planned, it was postponed, and when Ioan left the accommodation, he collapsed on the street and awoke in the hospital.
I gathered as much medical evidence as I could, researched as best I could, and requested a Romanian translator to translate. Backed up with information, Ioan’s support worker who he’d worked with previously, a Romanian translator and Ioan himself, Ioan began a care assessment.
The result came after a week – it was a pass. The dynamic shifted at that point in Ioan’s favour and he was placed in accommodation. The following days all actions, medical appointments followed their typical rhythms. Ioan got registered with the local Wellbeing Service which he is engaging very well with to this day. And there’s more: Ioan’s application for Personal Independent Payment was also approved, meaning he now has a monthly income.
Ioan remains resilient and determined to find a way forward. His experiences serve as a powerful reminder of the need for compassion and understanding in our society, particularly towards those who are marginalised and facing multiple challenges. It is important to remember that behind every person experiencing homelessness, there is a story and a human being deserving of dignity, respect, and support.