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; stories that have been written as a result of collaboration between Catherine Dunne and Focus Ireland. We thank sincerely all those who have chosen to share their stories.
Jasmine entered State care at just 11 but is now being supported by Focus Ireland, Jasmine (20) has experienced both foster care and residential care. Now based in Dublin 1, she is one of ten young people aged between 18-21, all care-leavers in supported living.
When she was very young, Jasmine's mother had a serious health breakdown that meant moving in with her father, his new partner and their family. There were eight of them in a two-bedroom apartment - the situation was simply not sustainable. After nine months, Jasmine was taken into care, aged eleven, and would spend the next seven years in the system.
Jasmine has experienced both foster care – with a family – and residential care.
Jasmine says the staff in her care home completely understood that she needed a family structure: they knew she would thrive in a more intimate environment and have much better opportunities. It's this level of care and understanding that Focus Ireland has, that helps young people and families each and every day.
Her first foster home didn't work out, it was a tough experience of being dropped into a totally new environment without any preparation. 'Back then', she says, 'there was no process of "easing in" to a new family. Today, the system is better: there are overnights, then weekends. Gradually the child and the foster family get to know each other.'
‘You can’t be too strict on a new foster-child,’ she says. ‘You have to give them time to settle. As a foster-child, when I moved into a new family, I had to get to know maybe six people all at once. They only have to get to know one of you.’ As expected, this can bring a lot of pressure and can feel very overwhelming. Taking the time to know each person and their situation is something Focus Ireland excels in.
Sometimes, Jasmine felt she had to be ‘Little Miss Perfect’ in order to be accepted and feel loved in yet another new family. There were times when she deliberately tested one foster mother in particular, she says, ‘and she was good. She didn’t hand me back.’
‘That feeling of knowing you’re going to be moved on is the worst in the world’
Trust takes a long time to develop in the best of circumstances. Often, it doesn’t develop at all. She says. ‘You can’t settle to anything. You can’t be still. And your whole childhood is taken away. Mine was. And I can never get it back.’
For the past two years or so, Jasmine has lived in an apartment at Chéad Chéim, Focus Ireland’s supported living accommodation. She is full of praise for the staff there, but she knows that at some stage in the near future, she will have to move on. There are so many young people transitioning from the care system, more and more support is needed and donations can help someone more than you could possibly think.
Jasmine believes that Focus Ireland should be grant-aided by the Government to such an extent that it can purchase apartments, and provide good-quality, secure accommodation for young people like her so that nobody is forced into homelessness, or to have a family before they are ready.
When she moved into Focus Ireland accommodation, she was ready. ‘It was great,’ she says. ‘I had a chat with the manager before I moved in, so I’d know what to expect. And the privacy was something I’d been looking forward to! I’d always been part of a flock. I really wanted to have my own space.’
But the transition wasn’t easy. Jasmine felt unexpectedly lonely but the staff worked hard to help her adjust. They reassured her and their care and support was crucial.
Focus Ireland staff ‘are amazing’, she says. Last year, her aftercare worker, Lynn, offered her the opportunity to be a Camp Counsellor in the United States, and she worked with children from some very challenging backgrounds. ‘Lynn was amazing,’ she says. ‘I still miss her. She did so much for me.’
Jasmine is young and vivacious, and feels extremely passionate about what she describes as her 'mission in life'.
She wants to finish college and get her qualification in Social Care work. ‘I want to be a social care worker,’ she says, ‘because there are very few social workers who come from a background like mine. One of the staff in my residential care home did – and all the kids connected with him immediately. He got it. He knew us.’
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.