'I want a successful life' – From homeless to hopeful – RTE.ie

Social Affairs & Religion Correspondent
The number of people in emergency accommodation nationwide surpassed 11,000 last month, the highest number ever recorded.
New figures released by the Department of Housing show there were 11,397 people in emergency accommodation in October.
The Monthly Homeless Report shows there were 7,917 adults and 1,601 families accessing emergency accommodation in the month, including 3,480 children.
Jodie Taite has lived what she describes as a “chaotic life”.
The 21-year-old has been sleeping rough for most of the last ten years, including on the decks of boats at one Dublin harbour, where she would jump the gate to find shelter.
“I just tried my best to find somewhere warm, like rather than sleeping on the cold rocks. The winter nights were the worst,” she said.
She was terrified.
“People would often drink down there so I’d steer clear of them. I was trying to like, go unnoticed, because as a young girl as well, like, I was scared. I was terrified really.”
Jodie did what she could to get by. She eventually entered a homeless hostel where she says she had a mental breakdown.
At 20 years of age, she needed a space to recuperate and heal from the anxiety and depression that consumed her. Sharing a room in a homeless hostel did not help.
Persistence and research pushed her into action and eventually she secured a room in Peter’s Place, which is run by Depaul Ireland in Dublin city centre.
Jodie is one of 35 residents, each of whom has a key worker. It means she has independence but is aided by a support team.
“As soon as I came here, I just felt that I could cook my own food when I wanted to. I could sit there and read a book if I wanted to, and nobody could give out to me or scream at me about it.”
Despite the security of the accommodation and its support staff, Jodie has continued to battle the trauma of the past. She tried to take her life at Peter’s Place, but has realised that she has so much to give the world.
“The staff saved my life, and I regretted the decision the moment I came out of that frame of mind because all I want to do is live,” she said.
“I just want to create a successful life for myself and just to show that I’m different and I’ve broken the mould. I’m not stuck in that place and I’m not a number. I’m a person.”
Jodie has plans for the future. She wants to go to college and study media production and journalism.
Despite this, she is aware of the challenges that lie ahead when she moved out of Peter’s Place.
“It’s really hard to get used to being in your own home once you’re out of the system. It’s completely different and it’s really hard to get the system out of your head.
“But I’m not a victim, I’m a survivor and I will keep saying that,” Jodie said.
Peter’s Place was originally set up as a temporary support accommodation centre for young people exiting homelessness, but many are staying longer because of a lack of available rented accommodation and social housing.
Keith, who has also been a resident at Peter’s Place for over a year, is grateful that he was not moved on after six months.
Drugs and addiction led him to homelessness, but he has “stablised” and key workers are now in the process of helping him find a course or a CE scheme.
“At the start, I thought I was just going to be in and out, but I’m glad that they kept me because the other hostels, some of them are really bad,” he said.
“I’ve lived with up to eight people in one room. You’d be lucky to wake up with your clothes there. Nothing like that has ever happened here.”
Laura, who is in her late 20s, is one of the longest residents in Peter’s Place and one of the oldest, which means many of the younger residents approach her for advice.
A month after arriving at the emergency accommodation, she got a job as a cleaner, working 90 hours a week.
Despite efforts to move on from Peter’s Place, she cannot secure accommodation. Laura believes that coupled with the housing crisis, there is a stigma around HAP.
“I emailed about 30 places within the last three to four months and not one place has gotten back to me. I think that HAP is an issue because some people out there pay money up front rather than going on HAP.”
Laura is confident she will find somewhere to live in the new year and she remains positive.
Deputy Manager of Peter’s Place Jordan O’Brien said discrimination in relation to HAP is evident.
“If one of our residents goes to a viewing and they tell the landlord they’re with HAP, obviously the landlord can’t refuse that because of legalities, but they’re going to pick someone else who is not on HAP, and then that leaves our residents with no options,” he said.
“Another major barrier is the lack of affordable housing. This is meant to be a six-month bed, but if there’s nowhere to move someone on after six months, we’re not going to make someone leave just because there are no move on options.
“So, we’re seeing people here for like two or three years before they can move on.”
Depaul Ireland’s youth services have seen a 40% fall in the number of people they have been able to move on from their youth services compared to last year.
In the meantime, referrals through Tusla and aftercare services are increasing.
Depaul has said all its temporary accommodation is full.
CEO David Carroll said he would “strongly advocate that temporary accommodation is not looked upon as a natural steppingstone from care”.
He said a plan is required so that young people can move straight into the community from institutional care and other settings such as prison or mental health facilities.
However, as homeless figures reach record levels, the charity said that on a wider level, consideration to extend the moratorium on evictions should be considered as well as a freeze on rents.
Depaul Ireland also said the Government’s housing supply targets need to be increased from 30,000 to 40,000.

Social Affairs & Religion Correspondent
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Images Courtesy of Getty Images.



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