Bridget’s children: ‘I can close the door and it’s just me and the kids’
Homeless for much of 2013, this family are overjoyed that they will be spending Christmas in a house of their own
11/12/2013 - NEWS - ‘Bridget’ (Not her real name) photographed for a Focus Ireland story by Ann Marie HourihanePhotograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times Bridget: “This is the happiest Christmas.” Photograph: Alan Betson
Gráinne and Finn wear slippers in their new house to keep the floors clean. Their slippers are neatly lined up in front of the washing machine, alongside their mother’s. In the living room they have a Christmas tree, which their mother, Bridget, bought in a charity shop. They have a garden. Gráinne now has a room of her own, where she can talk to her new friends on Facebook and play the guitar Bridget bought her at Lidl.
“Oh, this is going to be the happiest Christmas,” says Bridget, and she starts to cry again. Having a home means that “the sense of safety is unbelievable. I can close the door and it’s just me and the kids. That I can control my children’s environment. ”
Like many parents, Bridget began to worry about Christmas last May. She and Gráinne and Finn were homeless and in temporary accommodation in Dublin. The temporary accommodation was over a pub, not a suitable place for children.
“It was a nightmare. I thought we were going to be there for Christmas. When you’ve kids you do think of birthdays, of anniversaries, of Christmas.”
It was Gráinne’s 18th birthday in September, and Bridget had resolved to find a house for the family by then. She made it with four days to spare. She was helped in her endeavour by Focus Ireland and by the much-maligned social services.
For Gráinne, particularly, the new house has been transformative. “She’s just like a flower opening up,” says her mother. As soon as they moved in, Bridget found a cafe in the neighbourhood for Gráinne. “That night she came home and went straight on Facebook to her new friends. They’re nice kids there. They don’t wear make-up. They play pool.”
Finn is 10 and has autism. He has routines and obsessions about, for example, food. In the temporary accommodation Bridget had no access to a kitchen. “I was boiling pasta and eggs in the kettle.” Finn’s a messy eater, and Bridget would have to put a towel around him and feed him on the bed in the room the family shared.
Bridget was more worried about Gráinne, though. “The sibling of a child with special needs ends up as their carer. I saw that happening to her.”
In trying to flee Spain without their father realising they were going, Gráinne had left without saying goodbye to her friends. She missed two years of school. “When you’re a teenager your security is not about being with your mum, it’s about being with your friends,” says Bridget.