Hidden homelessness: ‘I didn’t live on the streets but I had no safe haven for my girls’
Amanda Cassidy speaks to one Limerick woman who describes what it is like to live without a home.
“I used to judge people I’d see on the side of the street – those who looked homeless,” admits Ciara, who has asked us to change her name for anonymity. “There is such a stigma surrounding not being able to organise your own shelter.” The mum of two girls speaks to me frankly about her own situation – about the day she realised she was herself without a home.
“The day that I realised I couldn’t afford the extra rent that my landlord starting charging, I was devastated. I cried and cried. Friends offered me places to stay, but I knew long-term that with two daughters I had to face up to the fact that I was homeless.”
Ciara is among those known as the hidden homeless – a section of our society who may not sleep on the streets, but who have no home to call their own – no security, no peace.
“After living in a hotel for two months, we lived in a community home with 10 other families. We had one bedroom between the three of us. It was a long wait.”
Although challenging, Ciara says she received incredible support – support she will be forever grateful for from the Mid-West Simon Community.
“I was extremely down and they helped me an awful lot. I can’t thank them enough. I was embarrassed to tell anyone that I was homeless, but do I think others should reach out and get the help that is on offer. Don’t struggle alone. I walked in there and asked for help and they changed my life. They helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Since 2020 there has been more people needing a significant amount of extra help across the board. Karen Golden, Chairperson for the Simon Communities of Ireland says that the work they do has a very wide impact.
“Throughout the year, staff and volunteers across the Communities responded to the increasing number of people looking for help. They supported people facing homelessness, whatever their situation. The Communities provided prevention services; soup runs and street outreach; addiction, counselling and GP services, emergency accommodation; housing first services; supported accommodation; and transitional and longer-term housing options across towns, cities and rural areas to men, women, young adults and families.”
Over 18 thousand people depend on the services of the Simon Communities in Ireland according to last year’s annual report. But the transformative nature of the pandemic in all of our lives and all sectors of society demonstrated how fragile an already fragile situation was.
Wayne Stanley, National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities of Ireland says they expect things to get worse before they get better.
“In 2020 we saw an enormous collaborative effort to keep those experiencing homelessness safe. That effort in conjunction with the moratorium on evictions saw a reduction in the number of people in emergency homeless accommodation.
However, the Simon Communities in Ireland prevention services are as busy as ever. This speaks to our concerns around the levels of hidden homelessness and the challenge that awaits us in the years ahead.”
For Ciara, the word home means security, it means peace and it means happiness.
“I’ve worked all my life, so for me to admit I couldn’t provide a home for me and my daughters, was horrendous. This is a problem people don’t know about – we need more affordable housing.
We are not looking for mansions, all people like me want is a front door to walk through and close behind you on the world. I’ll never forget the day I was able to do that. A home should be a safe haven, and we all deserve that.”
Image via unsplash.com
This article was originally published in 2021.