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24th Feb 2023

“Mentally, I was broken”: An Irish woman’s harrowing experience with homelessness and domestic abuse

Ann Cronin

Brought to you by Focus Ireland

“I got thrown out when I was 16 and that’s my very first experience of being homeless.”

We’ve all faced some challenges from time to time but most of us have never had to imagine what life without a roof over our heads is like.

For the thousands of Irish people experiencing homelessness at the moment, this huge fear is very much a reality. And while we’re all used to seeing the headlines and statistics surrounding the housing crisis, we don’t always get the chance to delve deeper into the lived experiences of those who don’t have a roof over their head.

That’s why Focus Ireland has launched their very own podcast series, highlighting the painful reality that so many individuals and families experiencing homelessness are facing at the moment.

The Focus Ireland Podcast, hosted by broadcaster and podcaster Clare McKenna, delves into the nuances of homelessness, discussing the topics we don’t normally have time to unpack in the media and elsewhere. With the help of a wide array of guests, including academics, journalists and other experts, each episode reveals some new truths about what homelessness is really like and what is (or isn’t) being done to solve the problem.

Crucially, each episode also features an individual who has faced homelessness first-hand and whom Focus Ireland has supported in securing their forever home.

In episode two of the six-part series, Clare speaks to Kelly-Anne Byrne, a 36-year-old mother of five, who experienced homelessness for the first time when she was just a teenager. After growing up in the foster system, Kelly-Anne was kicked out of her final foster home after falling pregnant with her first child at 16, forcing her to live on the streets with a young baby.

“I got thrown out when I was 16 and that’s my very first experience of being homeless. I was put into a homeless hostel with my eldest, and I literally had absolutely nobody. So I was not old enough to go into rented accommodation or anything because I was 17 and I was literally just left, as in, in between policies, let’s say, and out there really on my own. With a baby.”

During this period, Kelly-Anne lived between homeless hostels, which she was often forced to vacate during the day, leaving her and her son to stroll the streets of Dublin in the cold with nowhere else to go. When she turned 18, she was able to access some support and find temporary rental accommodation, but soon faced other challenges.

“Mentally, I was broken, mentally I hadn’t had the support I needed to live a stable life and I got into several abusive relationships. In one I had twin daughters and was in a very abusive relationship, in domestic violence, and I lost one of my twin daughters to cot death in the midst of it.

Sadly, Kelly-Anne and her family lost their home, when her abusive ex-partner threatened their landlord. “Because we lost our home, we literally had to go with the clothes on our backs and put all our stuff into storage, in like a storage allotment, and we had to walk over to the County Council and go in there and say that we were homeless and practically beg, what can you do for us, ’cause we’ve nowhere to go.”

From there, Kelly-Anne and her kids began receiving various supports, each bringing her one step closer to her forever home. She and her kids began healing from their previous unstable living situations, with the hopes of securing their own house someday. “I had like an outer plan but I had to do a lot of healing work with domestic violence and that, so that obviously the same situation wouldn’t happen if I ended up, you know, in a house and things.”

Five years later, after a long period of working on herself and finding the right support for her children, Kelly-Anne transitioned from domestic violence services over to Focus Ireland – who helped her secure her forever home.

“I remember getting a letter in the post and it was the best feeling ever, like our forever home, we got it. And it was above and beyond what I wanted, it had absolutely everything. We’re living there, in our forever home, over 5 years, over five and a half years now actually, yeah. And I cherish it, absolutely cherish it. It’s just been such a life-changing experience.”

“Focus Ireland, they don’t just give you a roof over your head. It’s so much more. There’s support, there’s stability, on the days when you are feeling really really bad and you need somebody there, especially not having family’s support, you have a support worker, the children have support workers, whatever their needs. Like, it’s ongoing, it’s not just here’s your house, there you go, off you go. There’s so much support outside of just the home, even though that’s huge in itself.”

You can listen to Kelly-Anne’s full interview on Spotify here or on Apple Podcasts here.

Kelly Ann Byrne is only one of the many women and mothers who have experienced homelessness in their lives. They have now overcome homelessness with the support of Focus Ireland. As there are over 11,500 people experiencing homelessness in Ireland, Focus Ireland has launched a podcast to explorethe complexities involved across the spectrum of homelessness. Listen to The Focus Ireland Podcast now HERE

Brought to you by Focus Ireland