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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.

Alan’s Story

One of Alan’s earliest memories is listening to music. His mother used to buy the occasional LP when the family lived in Manchester, and he remembers the strains of James Last and his orchestra filling the house. He remembers particularly their rendition of The Beatles’ Let it Be.

Alan also recalls vividly how, at eight years of age, he was a whizz at chess. He wasn’t great at maths, he says, but he was able to beat the socks off everyone else at chess. Alan took great delight in being unbeatable. He still plays, but not at the level he’d like.

Alan remembers an orderly, disciplined family life in Britain. An ordinary life, shared with his parents and his seven siblings.

After their return to Dublin, Alan remembers that his family life became completely chaotic.

All of Alan’s numerous family were born in Britain. But sometime in the seventies, his mother discovered she had terminal cancer. So they came back to Dublin when Alan was nine.

‘There were no boundaries,’ he says, ‘we all used to come and go as we pleased. We were wild.’ He’d find pallets, chop them up for firewood and sell sticks door-to-door.

At the time they moved back, family support systems were almost non-existent in Ireland, unlike the UK. The return to Dublin was hard, fraught with difficulties and soon after, it was as though the family structure suddenly began to crumble. One by one, everyone he cared about began to fall through the cracks.

Alan remembers how badly he needed to escape.

Money was tight in those days. He remembers the St Vincent de Paul calling every week to the family home. They used to give his mother five pounds: a help, but not enough to support such a big family. His father came from a ‘normal background’, but his mother’s family always sailed close to the wind. ‘We were all shoplifters.’ He shakes his head. ‘I was tired of the chaos, the police raids,’ he says. ‘I wanted out of the house. And I wanted out for good.’

At the age of fourteen, he had, he remembers, what amounted to a clear ‘moment of realisation’. He knew that if he stayed in that family environment, he would be doomed for the rest of his life to repeating his parents’ mistakes.

He was determined to find a better way, a better life.

Even now, all these years later, he remembers that moment as one of an intense awareness of himself and his future.

Alan had been attending a special school, as he hadn’t been able to cope in the mainstream system. The headmaster there, a kindly man, recognised Alan’s intelligence and realised that he was in crisis. He contacted a social worker, who agreed that Alan was a vulnerable young teenager who couldn’t live with his family anymore.

The social worker was a caring woman that Alan still remembers with great fondness. She found a place for him in the care of Don Bosco House: a residential centre with house mothers, rules and regulations, security and certainty.

‘It was like living in a normal house,’ he says, ‘only that it was big. I thrived under the boundaries there. I had a regular routine, an apprenticeship. It was good.’

But it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep his life on the rails.

When Alan was seventeen, both of his parents died, within six months of each other. It was a devastating double loss. When Alan left Don Bosco shortly afterwards, he moved in and out of a variety of jobs – kitchen porter, breakfast chef. He succumbed to addiction, ended up getting into trouble with the law and did time in prison.

What saved him on several occasions was a long-term loving relationship. For almost three decades, Alan was with a woman who cared for him. No matter how many times he fell, she forgave him and took him back, but there was unbearable pressure on them as a couple and the relationship fractured for good.

Afterwards, his life became a downward spiral. Alan’s mental and physical health suffered. He lost his accommodation – a flat on Dublin’s South Circular Road

Having a home is what keeps him grounded.

What rescued him, was when his name was put his name forward for accommodation in Stanhope Green, long-term supported housing facility run by Focus Ireland. He has a flat now, and is grateful to Sr Stan and Focus Ireland.

Thanks to the incredible help from Focus Ireland, he turned his life around and sought help for his addiction. He has been drug-free for over two years. Having found his feet, he had a daily routine.

These days, Alan is a frequent visitor to PETE – Preparation for Education, Training and Employment, run by Focus Ireland in Smithfield. There are courses there – computers, self-advocacy, literacy.

Providing comfort, care and structure, Focus Ireland allowed Alan to get his life back on track and help nurture the confidence for him to get by, day to day. So much goes into each person Focus Ireland takes under their wing, and with your support they can change people’s lives every day.

https://vimeo.com/307078492

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.

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Public Service Announcement – You Can Now Get Unicorn Manicures In Dublin

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Well, have we got news for you. 

Brown Thomas’ Beauty Lounge officially opened its doors last night, and guests were invited in to have a gander, get themselves done up and bask in the reflected glory of the Brown Thomas beauty queens. 

The lounge is Ireland’s first ever blow-dry bar and provides everything from back massages to manicures to brows and lashes from Nails Inc.

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The nail bar is absolutely incredible, offering all sorts of dreamy treats, including none other than a unicorn manicure.

Yes, you read that right – a UNICORN MANICURE

The mani includes the whole works; filing, shaping, painting and treating the skin around the nails. 

And the result looks a little like this…

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Gorge, right?

Want to get your hands on one?

Well then your best bet is to go in pairs, as the manicure is priced at €49 for one person and just €60 for two. 

Bargain!

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On The Wedding Countdown? Here Are 9 Dublin Fitness Classes You’ll Actually Enjoy

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While we’re not saying you have to buff yourselves up like Sly Stallone in his Rambo days, it’s pretty much guaranteed that if you look after yourselves – both mind and body – in the lead-up to your wedding, you’ll enjoy the experience a hell of a lot more.

And jaysus, if there was ever a time you needed a good dose of those endorphin yokes isn’t it now, when you’re desperately trying to decide on a russet and ochre invitation colourway and pink peonies or white gardenias?

Don’t worry – it doesn’t have to be all mindless treadmill-pounding while watching the gym telly with the sound turned off, because innovative fitness folk are doing some really exciting things in our fair city at the moment:

1. Fierce Pole Fitness Dublin

More a proud, skilful discipline than a mere form of exercise, pole fitness is one of the most enjoyable ways to get fit I’ve ever experienced. And it’s not just about losing weight – that becomes secondary – it’s more about gaining strength and seeing what your body can really do. 

Sarah from Fierce in Harold’s Cross is the real deal; her classes are always fun, supportive and challenging, and while you may not believe it now, within weeks she’ll have you spinning and climbing, and within months flinging yourself upside down. 

Fierce

2. Jump Zone

Exorcise all that pre-wedding stress by hitting Jump Zone – locations in Sandyford and Santry – for an hour-long workout one of their trampolines. Yes it’s true; you get to go a bit mad on a massive trampoline while burning around 1,000 calories in the process. World, sometimes you’re a very good egg.

Jump

3. Aerial Cirque

If there’s a prettier way to get fit we’ve yet to see it. Aerial Cirque on Exchequer Street (that room!) offers aerial silk classes, where you’ll tone up and strengthen your core while learning a graceful combination of dance and athleticism, and in the air no less.  

Aer

4. Bootcamp.ie

If pussy-footing around your fitness is not your style, and you want to feel the burn (said while enthusiastically punching the air obvs) Fitnessbootcamp.ie, which takes place all over the city, has a hardcore his n’ hers bootcamp which aims to whip you both into the best shape of your lives. 

Bootcamp

5. Anti-Gravity Yoga

Go all “me Tarzan, you Jane” with anti-gravity yoga. Here you’ll hang from a hammock – sort of like a soft swing or trapeze – while employing acrobatic techniques derived from dance, Pilates and gymnastics, helping realign your body and spirit with gravity and achieving physical and mental decompression. Try Yoga4all based in Swords

Anti

6. Boogie Bounce

Touted as ‘FAB, FUN, FUNKY AND EXTREMELY FAT BURNING’ the guys at Boogie Bounce invite you to “party off the pounds”. And it really is serious fun – in each class you’ll work every muscle in the body while bouncing on a mini trampoline to pumping, high-energy tunes. 

Boogie

7. Underdog Boxing

Underdog Boxing on Cuffe Street is home to a programme so terrifyingly-monikered you know it’s gonna get you results. ‘Fat Furnace’ is 14-day programme which includes 10 intense classes focusing on a mix of HIIT, weekend challenges and a healthy meal plan. It’s specially designed to make your metabolism speed up and your energy levels skyrocket.

Underdog

8. Form School

Everything about this Grattan Street studio is bloody gorgeous, from the retro boarding school-style logo to the are-you-sure-we’re-not-in-a-boutique-hotel décor. ‘In strength we trust’ is Form School’s motto, and it walks the walk with an innovative menu of reformer Pilates classes, ballet barre and yoga. 

Form School

9. Kangoo Club Dublin

Fancy getting fit by jumping up and down on pogo stick-style boots? Yep, us too. The Liffey Trust Dance Studio’s Kangoo jumping classes aren’t just good craic; rebounding is a brilliant aerobic exercise that gives you a solid workout without putting pressure on your joints. Look lads, you’re engaged and not getting any younger – you think to think about those joints.

Kangoo

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