‘It was a big change from being homeless’

Young mother sets her sights on a home of her own

Catherine remembers some happy times growing up in Tallaght, before intimidation drove her family out of their house when she was 18.

“There were teenagers smashing my ma’s windows. We had to get out of there. That was how we ended up homeless,” she says simply. They moved in with an aunt at first, then went into a granny’s house before ending up in a B&B for three months.

The family had split up before that: Catherine’s father was homeless and her only sibling, a younger sister, was in State care with a foster family. The chances of them ever living together again under one roof must have seemed remote.

But Sophia gave them the chance of a fresh start. Catherine and her parents moved into an apartment on Cork Street and were later joined by her sister. It has three bedrooms, with a hallway leading into a living room and kitchen, and a small outside balcony.

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“It was a big change from being homeless. It made me feel great,” says Catherine. She went on a training course for a while in west Dublin, which covered subjects such as home economics, arts and crafts, and drama, but says she was bullied by fellow participants and left: “I couldn’t stick that.”

Both Catherine, who is now 25, and her sister are mothers themselves, with daughters aged over and under one year respectively. The little girls make it a lively apartment, she agrees with a smile.

The pregnancy came as a bit of a shock to Catherine. “I was kind of nervous and kind of happy at the same time.”

But her parents were supportive and a key worker from Sophia was also there to back her up, attending all the antenatal appointments with her before Kellie’s birth in the Coombe.

“It is hard being a mother, but it’s great,” she says, her brown eyes lighting up with a beam. Kellie’s father is not involved in their lives.

However, parenting support is at hand, both from her own family and in Sophia. Catherine went on a “Healthy Food Made Easy” course in the nurturing centre and staff helped her wean her daughter on to solids.

“Most days I make my daughter’s food from scratch. She likes cottage pies.”

Currently, Kellie attends a nearby, subsidised community creche for a few hours each morning as she is too young for Sophia’s preschool. Catherine pays €48 a week for this out of her lone parent’s allowance.

At other times, “I go for lots of walks with her. There’s a play area here and a little field around the corner.” Her parents help with babysitting but, as Catherine explains, Kellie is “very attached to Mammy at the moment. If she’s playing on the floor, and I move from the spot she’s in, she gets up and follows me and takes my finger.”

Although Catherine enjoys the close-knit community life in the Sophia apartments, she is looking at what the next step might be for her and Kellie.

“I am thinking of moving out but it is kind of hard because I am going [into the private rental market]. It is hard looking, but we will get there in the end. They’re helping me here.”

Ideally she would like somewhere else in Dublin 8, but there doesn’t seem to be anything in this area on the system, she says.

If she could have anything tomorrow, what would she wish for?

Catherine thinks for a moment before replying: “Probably a house of my own.”

Names have been changed