This Christmas, we've teamed up with Focus Ireland to share some of the incredible stories from people who have experienced homelessness. In the first nine months of 2018 Focus Ireland helped more than 13,000 people, a 6% rise in a year. Focus Ireland prevents people from experiencing homelessness and helps those impacted by homelessness to find a stable home. These are personal stories, from childhood to adulthood, of loss, poverty, resilience and hope. We thank sincerely all those who have chosen to share their stories.
Edel’s smile widens when she talks about her two children. “I just want them to have a happy life”.
For the past two years, she has been living in a city centre hostel with her daughter and son. Every evening, she lays out all of their clothes and shoes for the day. This is really important, she says, so they don’t argue over whose socks are whose and get dressed as quietly as they can. There were complaints in the past from neighbours about the children making noise in the morning. So she does her best to keep things quiet - they don’t want any trouble.
We used to have a normal house, a normal life.
We rented a house for 11 years and had lots of friends and neighbours. I knew everyone on the road. Our landlord was so kind. He reared his family – 8 children! – in that house and was always so lovely. Once my daughter had terrible colic as a tiny baby, and he told me which medicine to give her. He was so upset when he told me the bank was forcing him to sell the house.
There was nowhere we could afford. I spent hours and days looking. We’d go to viewings, and there would be hundreds of people queuing, and no one ever called me back. I met Lucy from Focus Ireland, and she has helped us so much. She made sure I was registered and had all of our paper work in order. She helped us find this room, and made sure that the Local Authority would pay for it.
When we were packing, we had to get rid of lots of stuff – it’s amazing how much stuff we’d gathered over the years. Packing up was hard. Family and friends all took bags for us to hold on to.
The kids decided to put their toys outside our house the day before we moved for the other children on the road to take. I’ll never forget that.
It’s hard here. Little things like doing the shopping. I can’t leave the kids alone in the room, it’s against the rules so they come up the four flights to bring everything up with me, and then down again with the things we may need for the kitchen. If one of them forgets to wash their hands, I have to take both of them up the stairs again to our room, and then back down to finish cooking and have dinner.
The weekends are the toughest.
At least during the week the kids have school and sports to keep them busy. I try to find things for us to do – we go to the library a lot and parks when we can.
There were neighbours who would fight at night. I couldn’t go downstairs to get the Manager without bringing the kids with me – you have to be with them all the time, and it was the middle of the night. They were scared, and so was I. But this isn’t our home – they understand that. At least we’re not on the streets, I tell them. We’re lucky to have a warm place to stay.
I don’t know what I would do without Lucy. At one point my daughter, who has asthma, needed to spend the night in the hospital. But you have to sign in every single night or else you can lose your room, so Lucy helped me and made sure we kept our booking.
The school knows that we’re here, and they’ve been very kind. One of the days when my daughter wasn’t well and needed some of her medication, I had to bring my son with me to give her some medicine. It’s two buses each way from the hostel. She started to feel better, so the teacher let myself and my son just stay in a room and read some books until her classes were over.
They miss having their friends and cousins over to play, and sometimes they don’t understand why we can’t have a bowl of cereal in our room, something so simple. But we’re not allowed. And we’re lucky to have a kitchen, where at least we can eat together.
A few days ago, a letter finally arrived with the news she’d been waiting for, for over two years – they finally found a house. A home.
I told the kids when I picked them up from school that day, and they started jumping up and down. My son is already starting to pick out some bookshelves for his new room.
When I move in, I’ll just be so relieved. I’m still worried and anxious, but so, so relieved. I can’t wait to have a kitchen we can just walk into, take food from the press and fridge and just cook dinner for everyone. Just live our lives like normal again.
Lucy is helping me get things sorted – electricity, gas bills, some furniture, things like that. The kids just can’t wait. They’ve already started planning the housewarming party!
Every 8 hours a family is made homeless in Ireland. Together we can change this. Please help today by visiting focusireland.ie to make a donation, calling 1850 204 205 or Focus Ireland's Instagram. Visit our hub for more information.
Note: All imagery sourced from stock