As Christmas approached, Anna was living in emergency accommodation with her teenage daughter. This is her story.
I used to spend Christmas like most people, unsure what the season would hold, but finding hope and joy in the little things.
When you lose your home, you’re faced with a new reality that no one should ever have to face. When myself and my daughter were managing day-to-day while living in emergency accommodation, we found support in the wonderful team at Focus Ireland.
I used to spend Christmas like most people, unsure what the season would hold, but finding hope and joy in the little things. Whether it was window shopping for the perfect treat for my teenage daughter, or finding the best festive music when the day came to decorate the tree, we tried to soak in the festive atmosphere regardless of our situation—but that Christmas was different.
The rest of the year has been tough as it was. 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. 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. Despite this hope, 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. It was during this time that I discovered I 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.
I’ve experienced a lot in my life, and this situation left me close to breaking point. It wasn’t just me I wanted a brighter future for, it was my daughter and my unborn child who may end up born into homelessness. 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. I’d taken a huge step for us when I left my boyfriend, and while we were nowhere near the life I’d pictured for us, now it was time to find a new home we could call our own in any way I could.
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. 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.
For weeks we lived together in these tight and cold conditions.
I’d always heard Focus Ireland was a huge support for people experiencing homelessness and those living in emergency accommodation
As the weeks went on, all our efforts to find somewhere more liveable for us felt like it was falling on deaf ears. We both did our best to maintain some sense of normality with work and school, I kept my pregnancy news secret as I couldn’t bear the guilt. Once the evening came and we were sitting together in this small hotel room with no place to cook dinner or relax, the reality would hit us again. 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.
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 the kindness and support of the team at Focus Ireland, myself, my daughter and our future arrival moved into our 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. From now on, there’ll be a special place in my family’s heart for those going through our situation in emergency accommodation, people experiencing homelessness, the people in Focus Ireland who do everything they can to make sure no one has to face this reality and, of course, those who donate to Focus Ireland to keep their work and their support alive.
Thank you to the people at Focus Ireland for all you do and for those who donate and support their work, every euro really makes a difference to people experiencing homelessness and families like mine. 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. Experiencing homeless or living in emergency accommodation does not define you, while it may feel like it at the time, it is a phase of your life that requires you to reach out for support, as hard as it may be to do it. If you’re facing a reality you never saw coming and trying to see the light from the dark, just know that Focus Ireland is there for you, and so are we.
Experiencing homeless or living in emergency accommodation does not define you, while it may feel like it at the time