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 the personal stories, from childhood to adulthood, of loss, poverty, resilience and hope. We thank sincerely all those who have chosen to share their stories.
Fiona and Anthony's Story
When Fiona Dunne’s landlord told her that he had to sell, she and her husband Anthony spent two traumatic months desperately searching for a new home.
“We searched all day every day. We emailed. We called. We went to viewings and there could be 200 people there. The last week was horrible – night by night thinking it could be tomorrow.”
Fiona and Anthony had never missed a payment or fallen behind in their rent – but just two months after the ‘For Sale’ sign went up, their landlord arrived at their door to remove them and their two small children from their home.
“We dropped the kids to school and stood at the school gate, with our suitcases and bags and no idea what to do.”
That night Fiona and her family slept in their car.
Right now, there are now almost 10,000 people homeless in Ireland. Nearly 4,000 of them are children, and that number is rising every day. In fact, every eight hours, another family is made homeless in Ireland. The devastation begins the moment a family lose their home.
For Fiona, Anthony and their two young children it began on that night.
“We parked near our old house because we thought it would be safe. We had blankets but it was cold so we kept the engine running to keep the kids warm. You don’t sleep. You’re too scared to sleep.”
The next day Fiona and Anthony began to desperately ring emergency accommodation hotels and B&Bs to try and find a room for the night. That’s when they contacted Focus Ireland for the first time.
Immediately, one of their Advice and Information team began to help and support the family.
The first step was to make sure they had a safe place to stay that night and register them with the Local Authority. Within hours, Focus Ireland had helped them secure emergency accommodation on the outskirts of the city, and arranged for the Local Authority to cover this cost.
But their ordeal was far from over. Currently Fiona, Anthony and their children have been homeless for over nine months. They and their two children live in one room.They store their clothes, their food and their children’s toys in the small bathroom.
Under these circumstances, the pressure families are put under can be overwhelming - every family’s needs are unique. This is something Focus Ireland recognises and the association go above and beyond to provide one-to-one support and a Family Case Manager who makes sure each need is met.
Some need support with accessing medical care. Others need help getting their children into school or finding child care. Most importantly, each family’s personal Family Case Manager helps them begin their journey out of homelessness.
“Our Case Manager, Miriam, has been with us from the start. Whether it’s advice or just a shoulder to cry on, I don’t think we would have been able to cope with it all without Miriam and Focus Ireland.”
Focus Ireland has recently conducted major research into the impact of homelessness on children. And the results are frightening.
The lack of a stable home, privacy, space to play and proper nutrition are clearly affecting every child’s mental and physical health, and how they are learning and developing. For some children, the damage could last a lifetime.
“Everything is just so hard here. It’s very hard on the kids. Last week my daughter got homework where she was supposed to write about her home. She got very upset. So she lied and pretended we lived in a house in Terenure. But she didn’t know how to write the address. She begged me not to tell the teacher where she lived. She doesn’t want anybody to know we are homeless.”
“But we are lucky. We are not on the street. Every day on our way to school when we pass the people sleeping rough I tell the kids how lucky we are to have somewhere. And we have our Case Manager Miriam. I don’t think we could have coped with it all without Miriam and Focus Ireland. They help a lot.”
“They helped me get my daughter into after school care. They helped me get my son the support he needs with a Child Support Worker. They even helped get us school bags and pencils for school. I don’t know what we would do without Focus Ireland.”
Within weeks of becoming homeless Fiona and Anthony noticed a huge change in their son, Jack.
“He became so angry. He just hates it here. So whenever we’d go out or were on our way back from school, he’d cry and kick and scream not to come back here.”
When Jack’s behaviour became a concern, Fiona’s family’s Case Manager, Miriam, was able to provide him with a qualified Child Support Worker.
“Jack meets his Child Support Worker every Tuesday. It’s like play therapy. He loves it. This week he told her he wanted to learn knitting. So that’s what they are doing. We’ve really noticed the change in him since. He still hates it here, but he has calmed down so much.”
Jack is a perfect example of why it is so essential that Focus Ireland intervenes as quickly as possible to offer children the immediate support that they need.
“Christmas terrifies me. There’ll be nothing open and nowhere to go. So, we’ll probably just stay in here in the room. I don’t even know how we are going to put up a tree.”
“There was one family that we got close to in here. And this week Focus Ireland helped them find a new home. We were so delighted for them. I keep saying to the kids – some day soon, Mammy and Daddy are going to pick you up from school and bring you to our new house.”
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.