by Cillian Sheehan (age 17, Clogheen, Co Cork)
You have the right to food, clothing, a safe place to live and to have your basic needs met. You should not be disadvantaged so that you can’t do many of the things other kids can do.
Sixty-three days. That’s how long it’s been. The number keeps going up and up and up and I can’t do anything to stop it. It’s the last thing I think before going to sleep each night, when I know I’ve achieved nothing that day and now the count has to go up by another day. Sixty-three days my family has been living without a home. None of the others know about the count. It’s not exactly something you bring up at the dinner table. “Hey, guess what, guys! Now we’ve been homeless for nine weeks! Isn’t that amazing?”
No, when I talk to them I always try and stay on the bright side of things. I try and keep it light, make it seem like a game or an adventure. Sean understands, and he tries his best to help. He’s doing okay, I think. It’s the younger two I’m worried about.
Aisling is in fifth year now and Lord knows this isn’t what she needed. She was always a highly-strung child, getting stressed out by little things like being late or not packing a lunch. And now, as she’s getting ready for the final push before she’s out the door and into college, she loses her home. It’s been a rough couple of months for her. For all of us.
But I’m most worried about Erin. Only eight years old. She probably couldn’t comprehend the situation, even if I had told her. As far as she knows, this hotel is just for a brief while until we move into a new house, as big as the last one. And maybe she’s right. Maybe we will find a house I can afford. Maybe we can find somewhere to live. But I doubt it.
Mom worries too much. I mean, I can’t blame her. This is a pretty worrisome situation to be fair. If being homeless doesn’t worry you then, like, what will? But still, she worries too much. We know she can’t do everything and solve every problem but she tries anyway. I love her and I really appreciate what she’s doing, but if she keeps going on like this she’s gonna have a breakdown, and that wouldn’t be good for anyone, especially Erin.
Last June I turned 18, and the rest of my family forgot. Can’t exactly blame them though. The day of my birthday was also our last day in the house we’d lived in for most of my life, and I didn’t think anyone felt like celebrating. I almost mentioned it, just to point out that I was an adult now or whatever, but I couldn’t do that.
All it would have done was make Mom feel even guiltier and as if she was failing as parent. I knew full well we didn’t have money for any sort of celebration, and any money that did come went straight into the fund to get us a home.
I suppose I’m sort of lucky though; because I started college last week I have something to take my mind off things. It’s been pretty fun, and a few times I actually had a good time and didn’t feel worried or stressed for the first time in months. But then someone suggests we go out for drinks or something, and it comes rushing back. I don’t have money for anything like that. I did manage to find a job, working in a small shop near the college, but I don’t have many hours and I give most of what I earn to Mom. She needs it more than I do.
Last week in the library, I looked up the symptoms of depression and began ticking off boxes, which I know you’re not supposed to do, and that the internet is fairly notorious for giving out wrong diagnoses, but oh my Lord if depressed doesn’t perfectly describe what I am at the moment.
For the last few weeks, ever since we went back to school, I’ve been crying and crying and crying and crying and crying and crying. Most of the time it happens in my bed in the hotel, but once or twice I felt the tears coming on when I was in school and I had to run to the bathroom quickly and lock myself in a stall.
Only two people in school know that I’m homeless, my best friends Caoimhe and Jessica. Mom and Sean tell me it’s not something we need to be ashamed of, but that’s bullshit. I am ashamed of it, and I don’t want people to know. If I have to deal with stupid looks of pity on their faces every time they see me, then the crying will get even worse.
Mom thinks I should tell the teachers at least, and she’s probably right, but I still don’t want to do it. It’s not their business. My life outside doesn’t concern them. But I feel like some of them are starting to catch on. My English teacher, Ms O’Leary, asked if I was having trouble at home after I didn’t do my homework three times in a row. I looked her right in the eyes and lied to her, told her that I was fine. The rest of the teachers don’t care enough to bother asking, and they usually just give me extra work as punishment, which I almost always end up not doing, because I’m lying curled up on my bed, with my hands over my head, crying.
Mom and Aisling are sad a lot of the time but I don’t know why. Sean is happy whenever he’s playing with me but I see him being sad sometimes when he thinks I’m not looking. I think it is maybe because we are away from home so long and they are homesick. I’m a bit homesick too. I liked having a room of my own but now I have to share with Aisling and she cries a lot and I can’t sleep.
When we first came to the hotel Mom told me it was a holiday and we were going back home soon but it’s been a long time and we are still here. When I was seven we went on a big holiday to Spain and we stayed in a hotel for a week. It was really hot but there was a pool so we could go swimming a lot. That was my favourite holiday I’ve ever been on. I don’t like this holiday very much. The hotel doesn’t have a pool.
Also, whenever we went on holidays before, there was never any school but this time I have to go to school almost every day and I don’t like it. I had to move to a new school this year and I don’t like it very much. There are boys in my class now and they’re all annoying. My best friend Ellie was in my old school and I don’t see her very much now. I asked Mom if she could come for a sleepover because she used to come for sleepovers lots of times but Mom said no. I asked when she could come for a sleepover and Mom said she didn’t know and then I got angry and she started crying.
I asked Sean what was wrong and why we weren’t in our house anymore and he told me we were just staying here for a short while until we move into a house even bigger and better than the last one. At first I was sad because I liked our house but then I thought maybe I could go back to my old school and see Ellie again and not have annoying boys in my class and Mom and Aisling wouldn’t be crying all the time, and I got happy.
You have the right to food, clothing, a safe place to live and to have your basic needs met. You should not be disadvantaged so that you can’t do many of the things other kids can do