‘You feel like you have no life left’: Dublin schoolgirl speaks about being homeless

Tánaiste Simon Coveney says the teenager’s story was ‘heartbreaking’ and ‘not acceptable in Ireland today’

Protesters at Number 34 North Frederick Street protesting against a court injunction directing the occupants of the house to leave. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Protesters at Number 34 North Frederick Street protesting against a court injunction directing the occupants of the house to leave. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

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A Dublin teenager has spoken about the struggle of being homeless while going to school and feeling that her life has been “stolen” from her.

The fifth year secondary student, who has spent the last two years living in hotel room with her mother, brother, and sister, said she felt she had “no life left”.

“It’s really diminishing and degrading having to wake up and look at the dirt, the mould. It’s a struggle everyday getting up and even just taking the blankets off yourself every morning. It’s horrible,” she told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“People need to know that it is deadly to live like this. You feel like you have no life left, living in here with no security, you just think ‘what’s the point?’ you really do”.

The number of 18-24 year olds in emergency accommodation has increased by 8 per cent in the past year – from 811 in August 2017 to 875 last August.

She said she was too afraid to tell school friends that they are homeless.

The 18-year-old said in her previous school some boys had shouted at her that she was “living the high life in a high class hotel” and could “sit around doing nothing, waiting for a house that’s paid for you”.

The student, who is repeating fifth year, wept as she said “it’s not the high life. You’re living with the stench of people cooking food in rooms that are rotting away with mould.

“These are the years that I’m supposed to be focusing on getting a decent education, making friends, going out and living my life, but I can’t even do normal things like open a bank account, because I don’t have an address. I don’t have anything that helps me in life.

“You want to voice what’s actually going on, the truth with everything, but you are sometimes afraid, and your voice is gone”.

She said she was afraid that while some friends might accept her homelessness, others might claim that her mother was “scheming the country” .

In her new school, she has told one person and one teacher about her situation. Other students seemed to “have such decent lives” and she said she was afraid if they told their parents that they might “look down” on her.

She said she dreamed of becoming a counsellor or a teacher so that she could help children overcome their challenges. The student said after her own experiences she would hate to see any child “alone”.

However, she worried her homelessness would prevent her from going to college.

“Time is already flying by, next thing I know it will be my Leaving Cert. If I have to do my Leaving Cert here I know there will be no chance of me going to college,” she said.

“It’s really diminishing and degrading having to wake up and look at the dirt, the mould. It’s a struggle everyday getting up and even just taking the blankets off yourself every morning. It’s horrible.

When asked what she would say to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy if she met them, she said they should do their jobs.

“It’s their job to care, and if they don’t they shouldn’t have the job. Give the job to someone else that actually cares”.

After the interview Tánaiste Simon Coveney told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland it had been “heartbreaking” listening to the student and that he accepted that the State is failing her family.

“It’s heartbreaking to listen to her talk about the stresses and strains that clearly come with living out of a hotel room with her family, trying to go to school every day.

“That is not acceptable in Ireland today, and we are going to change it.”

He said the Government would do whatever was necessary in terms of funding and policy changes to get the student’s family out of “that totally unsuitable accommodation as soon as possible.”

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