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dublin protest

"This is not living it's just existing": Apollo House volunteer on her struggle to find a home

Carrie Hennessy, who is herself homeless, handed in a petition to the Department of Finance today.

03/01/2017. Apollo House - Home Sweet HomeProtest. Sam Boal Sam Boal

DUBLIN WOMAN CARRIE Hennessy, who volunteers with Apollo House and is herself homeless, spoke to a crowd of some 250 supporters outside the Department of Finance this afternoon as she told her story.

Home Sweet Home, the group behind the occupation of the Dublin city centre building, organised the march to the Department. A petition calling on Minister Noonan to open up Nama properties for use as homeless accommodation was handed over.

After handing in the group’s letter to the Department, Carrie detailed how she had struggled to find suitable accommodation, after becoming homeless last spring.

Faltering at times as she read from her notes on the steps of the building, she was cheered on with shouts of “go on, Carrie” from friends looking on.

“I had irradiation treatment in March and my flatmate wasn’t comfortable that he had to share a flat with somebody who had to be in isolation for 21 days, so I had to move out,” she said.

I thought I would be grand. I had money for a deposit, but I couldn’t find anywhere to live.

03/01/2017. Apollo House - Home Sweet HomeProtest. Carrie Hennessy and Niamh McDonald of Home Sweet Home. SAM BOAL SAM BOAL

Carrie ended up being placed in a hostel in the city centre, she said. She witnessed people taking crack cocaine.

“I didn’t try it but I witnessed other people ruining their lives,” she told the crowd.

I asked to be moved somewhere that didn’t involve drugs – but there was nowhere for me to move to.
I was then moved to another hostel. I was given my bags and had ten minutes to make a decision whether I was going to this hostel or not.
I went to the hostel. Within ten minutes there was three girls smoking heroin at the end of my bed.
The smell of heroin is horrific.

03/01/2017. Apollo House - Home Sweet Home Protest Home Sweet Home supporters outside the Department of Finance. SAM BOAL SAM BOAL

Carrie said she spent “four of the worst weeks of my life” in the hostel, as she attempted to find a more suitable place.

The people on heroin were all sitting around laughing and I was in the corner depressed. People on heroin seemed to have a much better time than I did.

Eventually she was offered a place in a B&B, but was uncertain whether she should take the bed as she had heard there was damp in the accommodation.

“I was still sick from the radiation,” she said. After deciding to risk it, again she was told she had a few minutes to pack before moving from the hostel.

The B&B was a “dry house” – meaning no drugs or alcohol were allowed, she explained.

I let out a huge sigh or relief and began to unpack.

However, following that initial relief, she realised that sharing accommodation with families presented a new pressure.

“I quickly realised that living with families, for me, meant I was going to spend a lot of time in my room.

“I feel I’m in the way of the mammies wanting to make dinner for their kids or use the washing machine – because there is only one, between nine families.

“So I decided I wouldn’t impose and I would spend all my time in my room. I wash my dishes in a basin. I store my food under my bed in storage boxes.

This is not living it’s just existing. I can’t remember the last time I woke up beside my partner because he’s not allowed stay.

She had never had trouble paying rent, Carrie said.

“I never had any trouble with landlords. I’ve always been a good tenant and yet I can’t find a landlord that will accept the HAP [Housing Assistance Payment].

“I go on viewings and there’s over 30 people queueing up with double the amount of rent that I can afford.

I literally can’t see any way out of homelessness apart from the government opening up these Nama buildings that are lying idle.

Related: Full report on this afternoon’s Apollo House march >

Also: Rebuilding Ireland: How the Government plans to end the homelessness crisis >

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