Battling Homelessness

RTE Drivetime Interview

Well here it goes, something none of us ever wants to face.

All my life I was raised to be the best I can be, go to school, go to college and get a job.

I fell pregnant at a young age but even with my little girl, I insisted on working and renting an apartment just the two of us.

At that time my one-bed apartment was 800 euro a month. I was probably earning just that, so we had no cable and I ate frozen vegetables with gravy for dinner. It sounds funny now, but I cried a lot.

When it all became too much I moved home to my Mothers house where myself and Laila shared a room.

I didn’t move out until I fell pregnant with my second child, which was 5 years later, Laila was in senior infants and I had gone to college and become a fully qualified fitness instructor and personal trainer, I was also back in college training to be a professional dancer. At that point, my mam knew there would be no room for a second child so I’d have to try and do it on my own again. Even though I was pregnant I didn’t give up college. I never give up on anything. I’m stubborn like that 😂 sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes not so much.

Anyway, This time I was excited

I was earning a little more, I had started a back to work enterprise, a start your own business scheme with south side partnership and Laila was in school so I had more time to work as well as being in college and being a mum.

We moved in two months before I gave birth and I spent that time doing up the house and making it a home. We were so happy here. With the help of my mam paying me 100.00 a week towards rent and my son’s dad buying the weekly shop, this time wasn’t such a struggle anymore. I had reported this to the social welfare and everything was fine, they had it on file but nobody ever really looked into it. Rent was 1,100 a month which was such a pain, although, I felt I had it all under control, this was my stubborn factor you see, determined I could do it all on my own and get no help from the world. I didn’t need help. I could provide for my kids, or so I thought.

After a year of living in this house the lady wanted her home back to sell after her father had passed away, so here I was again moving back home with two kids squashed into one room. Lucky for me it was only three weeks of viewing until I found another place to take us, this time it was an apartment but again rent had gone up, but my income hadn’t. I moved my sister in to take a room and share the expenses. But soon enough it all became too much for her and she moved out so here we were in another home that cost 1,400 a month. What made it worse the social welfare rang to say technically my mams help was earnings and immediately she had to stop paying me or my payment would be affected. So now I had no help, and because yes I was stubborn. Too stubborn to go and ask for help, I had great family support I didn’t need help, yes I was struggling but I could do it.

After two years here the landlord needed his home back as he split from his girlfriend, so again we had to move, I was pregnant again on my third baby and I began to view anything that had three beds.

After 11 viewings I wanted to curl up into a ball and shy away from the world, why couldn’t I just move into a home like everyone else and live there for years and years? What was so different about me that I couldn’t just stay put?

I asked my auntie to help me with my application, she worked with buying and selling houses so she knew exactly what they would be looking for.

Thankfully we were accepted, another move. Although this time I didn’t feel happy. I knew with the rent increase and my earnings still being the same that this was going to be another struggle. My mam worked out that she was able to give me a tax-free gift to help with rent, which everyone is entitled to once.

That took a little strain off and I began to work more. I thought we would manage, everything seemed to be going well again.

I think I worked a little too much, I went into early labour with my third baby and had to have an emergency C-section.

I think the way they explained it was my body was ready to give birth but the baby wasn’t ready to arrive. I spent the whole process in tears. I don’t think I could comprehend what was happening.

He arrived, he was breathing, at 33 weeks, the room was full of doctors and thankfully all was well, he needed to be fed through a tube and learn how to eat before we left the hospital.

We spent two weeks there and thankfully came home with our gorgeous baby boy. He was finally eating all by himself.

Little did I know the small contribution towards my rent my mam was helping me with was actually a strain for her, because at this point my granny had a stroke and needed full-time care in a nursing home and it cost a lot so I didn’t want to take it any more, I was relying on her too much, I was meant to be a grown up too and as I said, I could manage.

I slowly fell deeper and deeper into debt and my dad gave me what he had been saving to be my wedding fund to get me by.

After my beautiful premature baby arrived I couldn’t work or drive, doctors orders, but not only that, I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to leave him, I didn’t have the get up and go I always had and I didn’t want to work, Me? I cried every time I left the house and it could have been over spilled milk some days. I was happy to do nothing and be with my kids.

As you can guess, no work, no money, and mostly no happiness! What was wrong with me? It was my job to provide for my family. Feed three mouths before mine, and I couldn’t even keep the roof over their heads?

What sort of mother am I? I Began to stress about little things, I got heart palpitations over the smallest of problems and every day I just couldn’t Wait for night to come.

These were all the thoughts in my head.

I lost the house.

I lost my self.

After talking to my family and realizing there was nowhere for me to go, I went to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown county council for help.I Spoke to a lovely man who was more than happy to help but unfortunately, they could not find me anywhere to stay. He gave me permission to self Accommodate. Meaning I had to ring around all the hotels and bnbs myself to find somewhere to stay. I rang what felt like every place with a bed in Dublin, nothing was available.

So when I called them back they said to try Wicklow. Lucky enough I drove, and the first place I called had a free room. So I packed a bag and drove 30 minutes to the hotel, the staff were lovely, the room was ok, and it came with breakfast so was easy to pass off with the kids that this was a small breakaway but they were confused still having to go to school from a hotel.

These next few days were spent sorting out bags and bags of stuff from what I had accumulated over the years as every girl does, I went to charity shops And recycling centres to get rid of all the stuff I no longer had room for. My auntie kept duvet’s and towels in her attic, my dad kept bikes and books in his shed. There were pieces of us everywhere, but at least we were together.

We were accepted into hotel number two in Leopardstown for two nights, this was so much closer to my safety net so I was hopeful that they would keep us on a little longer.

The day it came to checking out. There were no rooms available, I rang the place in Wicklow again and thankfully they had three nights available there.

Unfortunately, on our third night there, we overheard a domestic argument at 2 am, a man was shouting vile language at a woman and slamming doors.

My kids weren’t used to this, I was praying they wouldn’t wake. I could hear a member of staff tell the guy he had to calm down and there was Garda on the way and he must leave the hotel immediately. The man threatened the member of staff with all kinds of abuse but after a while, it all went silent.

The following morning my son cried about a bad dream he had where a man was shouting and fighting, my daughter looked at me and said “Mom maybe he heard the argument in the hall last night” I knew then I couldn’t stay in this place again, my kids were terrified. I thanked the guy at reception but told him we wouldn’t be back, he was so apologetic and I assured him it wasn’t his fault, the poor guy could have been in the hospital himself after that night.

We moved back to the hotel in Leopardstown for three nights, then to a hotel in Dun Laoghaire for one night. I was ringing everywhere again and nowhere had room for us. We were too many people, most places only had a double room, some replies were “Ah if you only had one child I could take you” what sort of reply is that? I have three children and that’s never going to change 😂

I called the council again and they gave me a number for Focus Ireland. Thankfully these people werea god sent. I didn’t have to ring around the hotels myself anymore they did it for me. What was great about them was they would ring me to say there are three hotels available for you, here, here and here, which is closest to you?

I was able to take a hotel in Ballsbridge for four nights, while I was here I started looking for houses or apartments to rent on my phone while the kids slept. There was nothing in the Dublin area available at this time.

I thought about moving to Wicklow but the kid’s schools were here in Dublin and so were all my family.

I needed my support close by, especially because of how I was feeling.

After ballsbridge I had a night or two in two other hotels until I called The Rochestown lodge, they were willing to take me for one night, and if all went well they would have me for a week and If that went well they would keep me a month to month. This was great news because it’s so hard to look for a place when you’re more worried about where your going to lay your head at night.

At this time we were permanent here and just renewing our stay, we did this for three months, my son was afraid to go to the bathroom by himself and my daughter got so used to us all being in one room, that when it came to her spending a night at Nana’s House, she couldn’t bare to be alone.

Everyone was being affected in their own way, I felt at one point that there was no way out, nowhere was going to accept me, a mother with a small wage. Was this going to be my life forever?

After I got in contact with Cormac Devlin a T.D from our local area he informed me of a family hub by the Peter McVerry Trust opening up quiet soon.

I put all my eggs in one basket as I usually do but when I rang the council I was told that there were many people ahead of me and my chances were slim. I felt low again just thought that it was a no hope. So I kept on looking for Accommodation  anywhere close to home and even considered renting a room, with access to a kitchen.

Luckily enough one November  morning I got the call. I have been excepted for a place in the hub. The unit for homeless families. I cried on the phone tears of happiness of course I was now going to be able to put my babies to bed at night turn off the lights and close the door and then sit down to watch some TV myself.  Although I would still be sharing a room with my son who was just seven months of the time I finally had my own space again and I was so grateful for all the little things that you don’t realise are so important in your daily routine. When I went down to the hub I was greeted by lovely faces with big smiles and tea and biscuits. I sat in a room that was big enough to be my house which was called the play room/sitting room while I was waiting for my room to be prepared. When we were finally brought down the kids scream and I am so happy and bounced on their beds this made my heart fly. There were toys on both beds for the kids to have and teddy bears by their pillows.

It was perfect timing as I just wanted to relax over the Christmas and not worry about where I was going to lay my head at night and just chill with my children and enjoy the holiday season. I couldn’t ask for a better place to have been put the kids felt welcome here. They called it their tiny house. I told them that this was a house that we were staying in until the man built our big house.

The staff were so helpful as our birthdays past they always had a card and a cake to help us celebrate. It as such a nice touch.

It didn’t take long though until I realised that this was still not my home and that it was so important to keep searching for a place to call our own. No dinner parties or having friends over, no lighting fires and cuddling up on a couch, no glass of wine at dinner, no baths! These might sound so stupid to some of you, but to me these were so important and a huge part of my life and what made me feel home. After Christmas came and went I began searching again. This time only after seven viewings I was finally excepted for the haps scheme, and a landlord that wanted me.

I have never been good at filling out forms I always ask my mother to help me with my passport renewal and I certainly got my sister to help me once or twice when it was time to apply for my driving license or booking a holiday 😅 so the fact that the hap form is about 20 million pages LOL I was blessed to have the Peter Mc Verry trust help me with this.

We were given a move in date and the staff from Peter Mc Verry had a move in pack for me of cups, plates, cutlery, duvet’s and duvet covers. I was over the moon, I honestly wasn’t expecting so much support from them. Without them I don’t know where I would have been, they certainly helped make a tough time a little bit easier to handle.

There was a blizzard on the day I was ment to move in and the snow was deeper than our country had ever seen. The landlords agency weren’t going to be in work today so he couldn’t meet me at the apartment but I had the option of meeting him between 9 and 10 o clock at his apartment. Well come he’ll or high water I was moving in today and my Mam and I drove to meet him. At this point, nothing was stopping me.

I couldn’t wait to have a cup of coffee in my own home, relax on my own couch, and feel free.

Work was cancelled, the school was cancelled and people were warned not to leave their houses. Now I had my home so I didn’t mind for four days I didn’t budge. The kids were in their element. We were finally given a little break, financially I wouldn’t struggle and my kids had their own rooms, and I could have a bath!! A bath! A friend could call round and I could have a glass of wine at dinner, I was so happy. It felt like a big holiday.

It still gets to me that we had to go through this and it hurts sometimes to talk about it, but it only made me stronger.

I have kept this blog as light hearted as possible as I don’t feel it’s right to tell you all the emotions I ran through and just keep it to the facts. I’m through it now, we came out on top and for once in my life, I’m not worried about where the next penny is coming from because it’s all based on my earnings.

Now my aim is to help people who were like me in anyway I can and offer advice and ways of surviving it.

My Interview on radio 1 was on last week and the podcast is above for you guys if you fancy a listen. 👆🏻👆🏻👆🏻

We are strong and able to tackle any obstacles that come our way.

”No matter how hard the wind howls, the mountain cannot bow to it”


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