Irish mothers share their heartbreaking experiences with homelessness in Dublin
Brought to you by Focus Ireland
These stories are so important...
For those of us who've always been fortunate enough to have a place to call home, it's easy to take having a roof over our heads for granted. But for over 3,500 children in Ireland currently experiencing homelessness and relying on homeless emergency accommodation, the possibility of having a home would be a dream come through.
While statistics like these are a helpful way of understanding just how serious the housing crisis is, it's easy to reduce those facing homelessness to numbers and percentages, instead of taking a closer look at their difficult lived experiences. For that reason, Focus Ireland has launched a brand new podcast series, highlighting the painful reality that so many homeless individuals and families are facing at the moment.
The Focus Ireland Podcast, hosted by broadcaster and podcaster Clare McKenna, delves into the nuances of homelessness, discussing the topics we don't normally have time to unpack in the media and elsewhere. With the help of a wide array of guests, including academics, journalists and other experts, each episode reveals some new truths about what homelessness is really like and what is (or isn't) being done to solve the problem.
Crucially, each episode also features an individual who has faced homelessness first-hand and whom Focus Ireland has supported in securing their forever home.
In episodes two and six of the series, we hear from two mothers who have experienced homelessness, each revealing the unimaginable struggles some families are facing at the moment...
Dublin-based mother Catherine Keenan was directly affected by homelessness for seven years following a relationship breakdown, during which time she was forced to live between emergency accommodation and the streets of the capital.
"The first night I slept out, outside the council in Fishamble Street, there was a stone bench and I wasn't asleep, I was just there, didn't know what to do, was getting by, was just scary. Hadn't a clue where I was going to go, what I was going to do."
A chance encounter with a man experiencing homelessness that night led Catherine to seeking some crucial support, from linking up with Focus Ireland to signing up for emergency accommodation each night at Parkgate Street. For the next seven years, she would come to rely on these emergency accommodation beds each night. "I found most of the time, I got a bed when I rang but sometimes it would take-, like you'd ring at 2 o'clock, you could be on the phone for about an hour, you're just travelling constantly, you're on the move constantly."
"I just said to myself, after a couple of years like, this is my life now, you know? I'm just going to keep trying to get out of it. Was going looking at apartments, half the time I didn't even get, like, to look at a place, it'd be gone. It's just really bad out there."
After seven years of homelessness, Catherine's prayers were finally answered during the pandemic, when Focus Ireland offered her a home. "I got a phone call, I was just going to buy myself the best tent, put it in the park. And I got a phone call to go for a viewing and I couldn't believe it."
With a roof over her and her family's heads, Catherine says it's the little things she's grateful for. "Just lying down in the morning sometimes, just going to the shop to buy milk and bread, you know? That was, like, - if I go to the shop, I have somewhere to go back to. Just little things, I can't explain it."
Catherine says the safety and security her home has provided for herself, her three sons and her grandkids has been life-changing, allowing her to enjoy a "normal" family life. But she says her experience with homelessness is still with her today.
"I've recovered in a sense but I'll never forget. It's always going to be there.
"I'm always gonna know what's going on out there. Like if I go into town and I'm sitting at a bus stop to get a bus home, I'll see someone with a backpack, a woman, a man, a young fella. And it'll always come into my head, 'I wonder are they homeless,' you know? It'll always be there, always."
Thirty-six-year-old Kelly-Anne Byrne grew up in the foster system. She experienced homelessness for the first time when she fell pregnant with her first child at 16 and was kicked out of her foster home.
With nowhere to go and no family to support her, Kelly-Anne and her young baby were forced to live between homeless hostels. As they were often only allowed to stay in these hostels by night, Kelly-Anne and her baby often spent their days strolling the streets of Dublin in the cold, which she says exasperated her son's underlying health conditions.
Eventually, when she turned 18, the mother of five was able to access some support and found temporary rental accommodation, but soon faced other challenges. "Mentally, I was broken. Mentally I hadn't had the support I needed to live a stable life and I got into several abusive relationships. In one I had twin daughters and was in a very abusive relationship, in domestic violence, and I lost one of my twin daughters to cot death in the midst of it."
Things took a turn for the worst when Kelly-Anne's abusive ex threatened their landlord, leaving her and her kids on the street once again. "Because we lost our home, we literally had to go with the clothes on our backs and put all our stuff into storage, in like a storage allotment, and we had to walk over to the County Council and go in there and say that we were homeless and practically beg, what can you do for us, 'cause we've nowhere to go."
Despite these challenges, Kelly-Anne's family finally began to see a light at the end of the tunnel. After 5 years of working on herself and with her kids, Kelly-Anne transitioned from domestic violence services over to Focus Ireland - who helped her secure her forever home.
"I remember getting a letter in the post and it was the best feeling ever, like our forever home, we got it. And it was above and beyond what I wanted, it had absolutely everything."
"Focus Ireland, they don't just give you a roof over your head. It's so much more. There's support, there's stability, on the days when you are feeling really really bad and you need somebody there, especially not having family's support, you have a support worker, the children have support workers, whatever their needs."
Listen to Kelly-Anne and Catherine's full interview HERE.
Kelly Ann Byrne and Catherine Keenan are only two of the many women and mothers who have experienced homelessness in their lives. They have now overcome homelessness with the support of Focus Ireland. As there are over 11,500 people experiencing homelessness in Ireland, Focus Ireland has launched a podcast to explorethe complexities involved across the spectrum of homelessness. Listen to The Focus Ireland Podcast now HERE.
Brought to you by Focus Ireland