An Irish mother's moving story on what it's like to be homeless at Christmas
Brought to you by Focus Ireland
"I’ve experienced a lot in my life, and this situation left me close to breaking point."
While there's no denying that it's been a tough year for many people, most of us have a lot to be grateful for this Christmas.
Despite the challenges we're facing, at least so many of us have a roof over our heads, a place to call home as we celebrate the festive season with our families.
But for those facing homelessness, Christmas can be a very different occasion.
As Christmas approached, Anna was living in emergency accommodation with her teenage daughter. Her story reveals the devastating reality that thousands of homeless families across Ireland will be facing this Christmas.
"Myself and my daughter had been living with my boyfriend at the time who was an abusive partner. I handled it as best I could so I wouldn’t upset the life I’d created for my family, but as this behaviour escalated I knew that I needed to leave now to keep both myself and my daughter safe."
Anna knew that leaving was the only option for her and her daughter but she soon learned that it wouldn't be easy to find a new home elsewhere.
"Leaving only left us with an option I never thought would be in my future, emergency accommodation or homelessness. Deep down I knew that when I left, things would be ok again soon."
Anna and her daughter were left with no choice but to move into a hotel. During this time, Anna also discovered she was 8 weeks pregnant; "What should have been a moment of joy became a moment of absolute fear, but I needed to stay strong for my daughter. But the more I tried, the more I felt it bringing me down."
"As Christmas neared, instead of writing letters to friends and family or putting up Christmas decorations, I was constantly refreshing property websites and searching for apartments that I would rarely even hear back from and finding a way to turn the small hotel room into somewhere liveable for my family."
"When you lose your home, you’re faced with a new reality that no one should ever have to face."
Candidly, Anna revealed that living in the hotel left her "close to breaking point".
"For weeks we lived together in these tight and cold conditions. A small hotel room is no place for two women to live for an uncertain amount of time, as all the possessions we own were stacked up against each other in boxes, a reminder that I’d never planned for this to be such a long-term solution.
"My daughter had been so strong, but I knew living in a tiny and cold hotel room was chipping away at her bright, bubbly energy and the trauma a new baby would experience coming into this situation couldn’t happen."
As the weeks went on, Anna's efforts to find somewhere to live felt as though they were falling on deaf ears. The pair tried to maintain a sense of normality despite their stressful living situation, but Anna kept her pregnancy news a secret due to the guilt she was feeling.
"A hotel would have been a treat on one of our rare holidays, but now it had become our ‘home’. This was a reality that I could never have imagined for anyone, let alone my family, but then again that’s the thing, none of us are ever that far away from homelessness."
"My daughter was trying to be so positive about the whole thing, she kept saying, “Things will work out, mam”, but it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel… until one day the phone rang."
"That one call was all it took to completely change myself and my daughter’s reality for the better."
Anna eventually reached out to Focus Ireland for support, a decision which changed her and her daughter's lives forever. Focus Ireland provides advice, information, advocacy and help with finding a home, supporting people like Anna in making their way out of emergency accommodation or homelessness.
"I’d always heard Focus Ireland was a huge support for people experiencing homelessness and those living in emergency accommodation, I’d seen their posters, TV ads and fundraisers and heard great things throughout my whole life, but when you feel their support first-hand, you realise how vital their service really is.
"By doing something I never thought I would, and availing of Focus Ireland’s support, I learned that our situation was unfortunately not that uncommon, and there were people there to help us find our way to a forever home. That one call was all it took to completely change myself and my daughter’s reality for the better."
Thanks to Focus Ireland's support, Anna and her daughter moved into their new forever home - just in time for Christmas.
"As I wrote those Christmas letters from a kitchen table I could call my own, I couldn’t help but remember how at one stage I thought this moment would never come.
"Focus Ireland believes that everyone is entitled to a place they can call home, and they’ve made their mission a reality for me and so many others."
You can help families like Anna's by making a donation to Focus Ireland's Christmas appeal HERE.
Brought to you by Focus Ireland