herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

'It's scandalous how my 3-year-old is forced to live', says homeless mum

Siobhan Donohue with her son, Mason
Siobhan Donohue with her son, Mason

A homeless mum who says she has repeatedly begged for a home of her own claims she is being treated "like dirt" by the Government.

Despite her pleas, Siobhan Donohue said she faces another winter "locked up" in emergency accommodation with her three-yea-old son, Mason, who has been homeless all his life.

"I feel that homeless mothers and children are dirt to this Government. No child should be homeless, let alone more than 2,000."

Siobhan, originally from Clondalkin, broke down in tears as she told the Herald: "I feel I'm letting my son down. This will be his third Christmas homeless."

She said she is desperate for a home but rents are too high and, despite being on the Fingal County Council housing list for six years, is still without a place of her own.

Living in emergency accommodation is like being locked up, says Mason’s mum Siobhan
Living in emergency accommodation is like being locked up, says Mason’s mum Siobhan

"For those that judge homeless women like me, I say to them, this could be you tomorrow," she said.

"I ended up living like this with my son because there was no choice in the end. I wanted to be married when I had a child, to have a home, security, to provide the best for my little boy.

"But that isn't always the way life goes. For some, it takes a wrong turn, and now I'm stuck in a poverty trap and I need help.

Career

"I don't want to be a dole mum. I want to go to college, to get a career, to provide all the things my son deserves, to have a home for him."

Siobhan and her son currently live in inner city emergency accommodation. Both have to walk past drug addicts getting high on city streets each day, she said.

"This isn't a suitable place for a child. I want my son to be able to run around with other children, to take him for walks to the park, to have a garden and bring his friends over.

"Instead, we are in the inner city. It just isn't safe," she said.

"We have a flat in emergency accommodation which is better than being on the street, but it's like being locked up.

"You're monitored, and it isn't your mum or dad you're coming home to, it's staff. Not only that, it's constantly changing staff.

"They call you in the day to check you're all right and at night they knock on the door to see your child is asleep.

"That isn't a natural, home environment. That isn't freedom. I don't want this for my son any more. He needs a stable home."

Siobhan, who has been homeless since a separation, said she often cries herself to sleep because she feels they are "locked up, with no freedom and no one cares".

She bought Mason a remote control dog, but that isn't enough for the little boy who dreams of his own pet.

"I barely have the spirit to put up Christmas decorations, but I'll do it for my son.

"I have to wear a smile for Mason because he's only a child," said Siobhan.

"Mason wants his friends to sleep over, to come round to play, but they can't.

"I can't even get a proper Christmas tree because it's too small in here. I need help. I want better for my son."

Mason was born when his mother was living in a Dublin bed and breakfast.

"All he wants is a little dog for Christmas and a home for us to live in," said his mum.

"He asked me, 'Mammy, when will I get my puppy and a home for him?'

"It breaks my heart because he can't have a dog in homeless accommodation."

The brave mother, who came forward to highlight the effect of long-term homelessness on children, has to walk to the bathroom to cry when Mason asks for a wish she cannot grant.

To make matters worse, she struggles to walk due to an injury she suffered and says she cannot get surgery until she has a ground floor address.

Struggle

"I struggle to walk. I broke both ankles and the bones weren't fused properly. I need surgery, but in this emergency accommodation there are stairs, so I couldn't recover at home," she said.

"I feel so angry. It's a scandal how mothers like me and children are forced to live."

A spokesman for Fingal County Council said: "While it is the council's policy not to comment on individual cases, we can say that Fingal County Council have had contact with the applicant recently and further contact is planned as the council continues to explore a move on from the present supported accommodation."

Department of Housing figures show there are more than 2,400 homeless children and nearly 4,300 adults across the State, most of whom are in Dublin.

Homelessness affects more than 1,170 families.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News