Coming home is a prospect that many Irish people reflect upon at some point of their time living abroad. While the decision to return can be straightforward and exciting for some, others can face more challenging decisions when factors such as age, health condition, employment status, housing and income become factors to contemplate. Regardless of the situation, the decision to ‘stay or go’ is a complex one that should only be made after thorough research and planning has been done.
As a twice returned emigrant myself, I know first-hand the dilemmas and challenges that many face on their return home, and now in my capacity as CEO of Safe Home Ireland, my key message to anyone considering making the move back is to ‘do your homework’ first. This means researching and planning your move well in advance and if you do return home, be prepared for the emotional challenges and readjustment that come with it. I also recommend that you treat the return as a new emigration experience with all of the highs and lows that this can entail rather than simply a reversion to the status quo. It is vital to allow enough time to settle back in and most importantly consider the reasons why you decided to make the move back home in the first place.
While every returning emigrant’s story is unique, common ‘pull-factors’ for returning Irish citizens often include a desire to be closer to family and friends, or often a career or educational advancement opportunity. At Safe Home we also witness those who return in times of crisis, as well as those who are forced to return home. This may be because of issues such as homelessness abroad, deportations, expiry of visas or work permits, those being released from prison, relationship breakdowns and for others ‘things just not working out’ as planned. Finally, for some of our older clients, the desire to return home is often a lifetime dream that allows them to live their twilight years in the land of their birth, and sadly to say die at home.
So how can Safe Home Ireland assist you if you are thinking of coming home to Ireland?
Safe Home Ireland (Safe Home) is a Co. Mayo based not-for-profit national organisation with a global remit. We were set up in 2000 to facilitate the desire for elderly Irish emigrants abroad coming home to live in their native area. Over the years, Safe Home has evolved from simply providing a housing option for older Irish born emigrants. We now provide a range of other services including information and guidance to all Irish abroad who are thinking about making the move as well as outreach and home visiting service to those who do return home.
Safe Home Ireland provides a range of services and supports to anyone thinking of making the move home and we strongly advise to do as much pre-return research and planning as possible. Our information and advocacy service is generally the first port of call for those who may be contemplating returning or moving to Ireland and we can answer any queries as well as provide information on ‘things to do in advance/paperwork to bring home’. This will ease the transition on return as it is difficult, although not impossible, to do this in reverse
For those who have returned we offer an outreach and advocacy service if assistance is required with general adaption and re-integration in Ireland. This could include assistance with paperwork to get re-established, accessing rights as well as signposting on to other relevant services that may be of assistance.
While we do not manage or build any properties of our own, we can assist qualifying older Irish born emigrants to return home, primarily to social housing schemes back in their native areas. To apply for housing through Safe Home, applicants must be: (a) Irish born emigrants living abroad, (b) aged 57 years or older, (c) capable of independent living, and (d) living in rented accommodation abroad and unable to provide accommodation for themselves out of their own resources on their return to Ireland. This process can take a long time depending on the proposed return location and availability of social housing, especially in cities, given the current housing crisis in Ireland. We urge people to contact us well in advance of their intended return date to Ireland, and we can guide you through the lengthy process from there.
Finally, Safe Home Ireland acts as a link with home for emigrants who decide to remain on in their adopted countries. We do this primarily through our monthly newsletter, as well as through the various social media platforms. We realise that coming home is not for everyone but we know that staying connected with Ireland is particularly important for most.