Gail's journey of hope

Gail Quirk participated in a Q&A with radio personality and McAuley Community Services for Women board member Matt Tilley at the official opening of the new McAuley House in Pickett St, Footscray, on November 30. Her story is compelling.    

Gail Quirk has been part of McAuley Community Services for Women for 26 years. She first sought refuge when she was a mother escaping a violent husband. She found herself homeless and ended up at Regina Coeli (now McAuley House), sleeping in a dormitory like room with other women in a similar situation. She recalls with great clarity the support and care given to her by the Sisters of Mercy who ran Regina Coeli.

“They made me feel safe and secure and at home,” Gail said. She stayed at Regina Coeli for nine months before returning home because she missed her children and didn’t have the money for private rental. She tolerated the continued abuse for a long time before finally moving out and into her own flat.

Gail has survived years of instability, abuse and fragile physical and mental health, always knowing McAuley Community Services for Women is there for her. She feels part of the community that has been fostered over decades at McAuley House. She still visits every month to catch up with friends who are living at McAuley House or who come back for the monthly birthday night celebrations. This night brings together many of the women who have lived at the house, but who are now in their own house or flat. McAuley Community Services for Women continues to support many of these women.

“You should see birthday night each month at McAuley House. There are cakes and decorations and a present. Some of the women there have never celebrated their birthday,” she said.

Nine months ago Gail, 68, moved into the Mercy aged care facility in Melbourne and loves her new home. Staff and other residents chat to her as she walks around and she has already immersed herself in the life of her new community.

“I eventually got lonely and depressed living on my own. I know I would not be here today if it wasn’t for the Sisters and the staff at McAuley House. They kept me going through some pretty dark times,” Gail said.

Gail plans to attend the November 30 opening of the new McAuley House at Pickett St and she plans to keep visiting each month. Most of the women she has shared the last few decades with have travelled similar paths, though they don’t talk too much about it.

“A lot of women who end up at McAuley House don’t want to talk about their homelessness because the things they have gone through are too sad. They might have gone from the streets to rooming houses and then had to put up with the drugs and the violence. When they come here it is safe and like a home,” Gail said.

“It’s the other stuff there that's helped keep me going over the years – the art, music and singing and the outings to the beach in the summer. I joined in those things and for a while I could forget what was happening in my life.”

5 December 2016