'I didn't have a home, it was a prison,' says DCU student who battled homelessness
A DCU student has shared her harrowing experience with homelessness, revealing it took her years to accept it.
Laura Horan, from Coolock, Dublin, says that she was homeless as a child, and, for a short spell during her time in college.
The third-year journalism student told her story ahead of DCUtv's 24-hour broadcast in aid of the Peter McVerry Trust.
Laura was in fifth class when she and her family became homeless and they remained without a home for a further two years.
"It came to us staying in friends' houses for a while. Eventually people got really annoyed at us imposing on their house," she said.
Eventually, a friend of Laura's mum suggested finding a homeless shelter to stay in.
Before that point, Laura and her family were forced to sleep in a car or sit on the streets.
The student says it never really dawned on her that she was actually homeless.
"I just thought it was normal. I just thought I was always hanging out with my mam, I didn't see anything wrong with it or anything different about it," she said.
Laura's family later moved on to a shelter, where she said families would be squeezed into a small room with one double bed. It was only when her class was filling shoeboxes with old toys for homeless children that she realised the full extent of her situation.
"I went to my nana's and put the shoebox together, and was so excited to give it to these kids," she recalled.
"It was coming up to Christmas and in the homeless shelter I lived in, which I thought was just a hotel, this fella dressed up as Santa Claus came in," she added.
"He gave out all these boxes to everyone," she continued. "When I was opening the boxes and actually looking around at everyone's shoeboxes, I then realised that these are the homeless shoeboxes that I had sent off to other kids that I had felt sorry for.
"It was just so hard for me to realise that (she was one of those homeless children).
"I noticed more and more how I didn't have a home but was actually living in a prison. There would be fistfights from time to time in the halls, people doing drugs in public, the people in charge had these fancy rooms with a TV with all the channels, comfy couches, computer and coffee machines.
''I would peek in with anger watching them sitting comfy while everyone living there cried themselves to sleep."
Laura told the Herald about moving into her new famiy home.
''When the day finally came two weeks before Christmas I didn't know how to feel, we walked around an empty apartment and I was still so angry at first, I thought why did this take so long, they didn't just build these apartments now. I was 12 at the time.
"That year my mam got donated a blow-up bed and a portable DVD player. My mam got what money she could and bought a 30-inch Christmas tree. This was the best Christmas of my life.
''We may not have had much by others' standards, but we had made it and life was only going to get better. My life has completely changed from being that scared little girl in the homeless shelter," she said.
"I got one of the highest results in school…in my Leaving Cert. I got into DCU. I'm now in my final year doing a journalism degree. Donating to charities is so important because it helps people like me.''
The 24-hour broadcast can be seen live on December 2 from 9pm on DCUtv.com.