In 2018 Louise’s relationship of 12 years broke down. She went from owning her own three-bedroom house to being homeless with her 4 young children in just a moment. The family moved into a two-bedroom flat in Depaul’s Cloverhill Hostel in October 2018. Here she tells her story in her own words.
When I arrived at Cloverhill I met with the staff who were very supportive and welcoming to me and my family. They showed me around the building and led me to our flat. On seeing the flat, the reality of what was happening in my life hit me like a ton of bricks.
My child with complex needs, she just started crying. That made my anxiety worse. I felt more of a failure than anything. But the staff reassured me. They said they would always be on hand for me, no matter what I needed.
The flat had of two bedrooms, a living room, dinette, kitchen and a large bathroom. Once we spent some time there, the kids did begin to like it. After what seemed like a lifetime, the good news was that we had somewhere we could call home, even if it was temporary.
I am the type of person who finds it very difficult to ask for help or support. I am used to doing things for myself and my family. At this time in my life I was at a low place and found it even more difficult to ask for help.
But from day one at Cloverhill staff made me feel at ease. They helped me to access Housing Benefit, supports for my children through the Child Support Worker, and help for me – in particular, a listening ear. It was like they read my mind and offered help when I needed it. This was done in a very non-judgemental way and staff made me feel like I was someone, an important person. I settled into the life at Cloverhill quicker than I had anticipated due to the support of the team there.
My children loved all the activities that the Fiona, the Child Support Worker and staff organised. As soon as school was finished, there was homework club. As soon as the homework was done, then there were arts and crafts, puppet shows, trips to the museum, parks and much more.
The activities at Christmas were priceless. At Christmas time each of my children and I received a Christmas present from Santa which was very much appreciated. There was a present there for me, there was a present there for the kids. The staff would have dressed up –there was the Grinch. The families at Cloverhill had a sit down Christmas Dinner. At Easter time we all received an Easter Egg from the Easter Bunny, again, very much appreciated. We really felt as if we belonged somewhere.
During my time at Cloverhill I was empowered to engage in activities that suited me as an individual, and suited my kids as individuals. Karen, my Key Worker, had given me a leaflet for Street Soccer, which is another charity. I made the decision then, even though my anxiety was high, I knew I needed to do something for my mental health. I decided to join Street Soccer and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I took part in a personal training to support my mental health while I was at Cloverhill.
After 3 ½ years at Cloverhill, I received a letter from the Housing Executive to offer my family suitable accommodation in the form of a four-bedroom house. I needed a four bedroom due to child with complex needs.
I was ecstatic to have received this offer however, a little sad to be leaving Cloverhill. My feelings of anxiety rose again. I felt anxious about being on my own in the big, bad world without the supports of the staff at Cloverhill for my children and I. However, this was not the case. I told there was Family Floating Support from Depaul. It meant if I needed help with anything, I could just lift the phone. I felt a lot better then, that first day going out on my own.
My kids were ecstatic; they couldn’t wait to get into it. They do miss the staff of Cloverhill though. Now we are in our forever home, and we’re so happy.
As of today I am immensely proud of all I have achieved. I have Captained a team and represented Northern Ireland in the Homeless World Cup. I have qualifications in Youth Football Coaching, Disability Football Coaching, First Aid and Food and Nutrition. I still volunteer for Street Soccer, and I’m in the best shape I have ever been in my life physically and mentally.
For the support we received at Cloverhill, we will be forever, forever grateful. If it wasn’t for you, the Depaul supporters, the kids would not have had all they did during our time at Cloverhill.
All of these supports given to myself and my family have re-energised us and given us hope in our lives. And we would just like to thank the donors who donate to Depaul, because none of this would be possible without you.
To support a family like Louise’s, please donate today