Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

12.59 10 Dec 2019


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A woman who spent 15 years experiencing homelessness says the feeling when she finally got the keys to her own home was "better than winning the Lotto".

Francesca, a tenant of the Peter McVerry Trust's Housing First programme, spoke to Pat Kenny about experiences.

"To be given your own home after 15 years of being homeless... words just can't express it"

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The model aims to provide a person who has been sleeping rough or experiencing long-term homelessness with their own secure accommodation.

They're also given access to intensive and specialised support services.

Francesca is relatively new to the programme, and has recently gone through their new residential stabilisation service to help with her drug addiction.

Speaking to Pat, she explained how she was brought up by her grandparents until they became ill.

After spending time in other accommodation, she eventually met her mother in her early teenage years.

She observed: "I thought she was coming to save me, but it was quite the opposite.

"My mum would have been an alcoholic... she used me to basically get money for her.

"[It was] heartbreaking at first, but unfortunately after not having the love of a mother for nearly 13 years and obviously my nanny getting so ill... I had a very skewed idea of obviously what a mother's relationship would be.

"I was willing to do anything above and beyond to make her love me."

Francesca - who is now 39 - says by the age of 14 she was being trafficked, and subsequent years saw her experiencing addiction and homelessness.

She explained how she ended up sleeping in places such as the Phoenix Park because she was "desperate".

She told Pat: "You fall asleep and you don't know who's going to jump into a sleeping bag beside you, especially when you're female."

Francesca also found out she was pregnant when she was 16, and spent two years battling to keep her son - but ultimately decided to give him up for adoption due to the problems she was experiencing.

She added: "He needs to have a set of parents that need and want the child so badly... and give that child the love, care, attention, money and everything else.

"It was an open adoption, and for many years I did get photographs. But as he got older, he did pull back - I have to respect his wishes.

"I just live in hope that some maybe one day he will find it in his heart to come looking for me."

'Take my power back'

Francesca told Pat: "The only way I could take my power back from all the horrible things that did happen to me is the fact that I'm now clean and sober.

"I have a deadly day programme, Soilse. I work with the McVerry Trust. These guys would have found me with [no] will to live, sleeping in sleeping bags, injecting drugs into my body.

"These guys just kept reaching out to me and reaching out to me and reaching out to me."

Francesca said it was "amazing" to finally be given a key to her own accommodation.

She said: "To be given your own home after 15 years of being homeless... words just can't express.

"For me to actually be given a home, it was better than winning the Lotto."

After entering the Housing First Programme, Francesca continued her rehabilitation efforts and is now "clean and sober".

She added: "That's mainly through the guys here... they've given me the hope and strength to carry on."

If anyone's affected by the topics discussed in the interview and would like to talk to someone, you can call the Samaritans on Freephone 116 123.
Main image: File photo. Picture by: Ralf Hirschberger/DPA/PA Images

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