Traumatised by fear of becoming homeless again
My budget:Tom is 50. He was homeless for seven of the last nine years.
“It sounds a horrible thing to say, but in some ways, people on the streets are a bit resilient. I was one of them. The fear I have of falling back into homelessness again, now that I have managed to get out of it, is really terrible.
“I lost my job nine years ago. I worked in construction. My savings ran out pretty quickly. I was in a relationship, but it didn’t survive me losing my job. My ex-partner owned the house.
“Basically, I couldn’t cope. I had health problems with my heart too. I spent some time on the streets. Let’s just say the stigma of being homeless makes you withdraw from family.
“From the streets, I went in and out of hostels, and sofa-surfing. All I can say is that anyone who doesn’t have a drink or drugs problem before they go into a hostel soon will have. Some people prefer to sleep on the streets than go into a hostel. You fall into that peer group; it affects your physical and mental wellbeing and your sense of self-belief.
“Two years ago, I spoke to an outreach worker from Focus Ireland in a hostel. They helped me get into education through a Fetac level five course. I have two more years to go. They helped support me to get a place of my own with the help of a community welfare officer.
“I would never have got back into education without Focus. I can walk down the street now without looking down when someone looks at me.
“My rent supplement is €77 a week. I top up the shortfall on the rent by €32. Utility bills are extra. I get the basic social welfare allowance of €188 a week. Rent allowance already dropped by €6 a week earlier this year. That might not be a lot to some people, but for me, €6 is a lot of money . . .
“That extra €6 payment a week I have to put towards rent now means my ability to do college work has been affected. I used to put €5 away regularly to buy internet access credit . . . And if you have a research project, you need to use the internet.
“I vote. You can’t afford to speak out against the Government unless you have voted. But I would say maybe 2 per cent of homeless people vote . . .
“The people I know are literally terrified around the budget. They are also afraid of services being cut. And the people who are quite affluent and donate money to help the likes of me will give less when times are hard.
“The whole idea around going back to college for me was so that I wouldn’t be depending on social welfare long-term. I can only hope I won’t have to leave.”