“I can’t say why I had the breakdown at 17. I would do things and I wouldn’t know why. The depression just comes and goes. One week I might be good the next I’d be crying and going mental.”

Sinead comes from a town in Co. Limerick. She is cheerful and engaging as she tells the story of her pathway to Cork Simon Community and how she became homeless.

“I never touched alcohol until I was 17. Not a drop. I left home at that stage and went to a home for homeless girls in Cork. I was in and out of there – going back home each time. I’d had arguments with my dad and that’s why I left home. He never put a finger on me. I must make sure you know that. We were just too alike. We argued and were stubborn. Both of us. We still get on – we just argue. We can’t be in the same house for long.

I’d left school when I was 16 when I got a job in the local shop. So I had some money of my own.

“When I was 17 I had a nervous breakdown. I was sent to a psychiatric hospital for four months. They put me on various tablets. I was seeing a counsellor and a psychiatrist. I was on several tablets.”

“Dad came into my room and found me hanging. I dunno why – my mind just went blank. Before that I had hurt myself, I’d slit my wrists a good few times. I think it was something to do with the tablets. I can’t say why I had the breakdown at 17. There is nothing there we said it was because of. I would do things and I wouldn’t know why. The depression just comes and goes. One week I might be good the next I’d be crying and going mental – drinking and fighting and causing trouble. You’d be just out of it.

The tablets make you feel calmer initially. But then when you are taking them so long it feels like there is no difference. I stopped taking the tablets when I got pregnant – three years ago. I gave them all up two months ago.

I’m very close to my brother. We are tight. For a while he went abroad and that was tough. We both missed each other. He rang me every night. He was crying on the phone so I sent him the money and he came home. He has got his life together now and that is great.

“My two younger brothers were taken into care. I’ll never forget it. I was to take them to Funderland and then all these people came and took them away and into foster care. I knew nothing about it. I dunno why (they were taken away). Myyoungest sister is at home.”

“Alcohol only really became a problem over the last year. My fiancé died last year. He was great guy and I thought everything was working out. He was not a drinker. We were together for four years. We were going for a house together. Me and my fiancé, the father of my child, going for a house together. Things were good. Then he over-dosed on heroin. He was just messing around on it. I never knew he ever took it. It was like being hit by a train. Then I’d a miscarriage. By that stage I’d taken up with another guy and he died also. He also died of an overdose. You probably think I’m some sort of whore but that’s how it happened.

“Friends say to me that they don’t think it has hit me (all the things that have happened over the last year). A few months ago my son was put in my mam’s care. I’m happy with that.”

I first came to Simon two months ago. The staff have been brilliant. They are there for you – always. They organised for me to go to the counsellor. She has been brilliant. I’ve got activities on all this week. They give you something to get up for. Not just watching telly and doing drugs. I’ve been doing courses here (Simon). Hairdressing and computers. I did one on cookery. I do table tennis and chess. I even like doing the football. I am very good at the pool. Although we need a new one (pool table at the Shelter). They (activities) keep you doing things. They keep you busy all day and then I end up tired, which is a good thing. I just watch some TV and go to bed.

There is always going to be drink around. It is up to yourself. It is not where you are living – it is yourself. That is what I‘ve realised. More so since I came to Simon. I’m three weeks dry and I want to stay that way.”

“All I think about is my child. He is what makes all this change happen. He is a handsome boy and I want to be there for him – to be his mum.”

“Where will I be in a week’s time? Seven days is very short. Here I guess. In six months? I want us (son) to be together in a suitable apartment in a quieter part of the city. I’ve thought about it – that is what I want for us. It has to be suitable for the boy. I have the rent allowance and the deposit but it is very hard to get the
right place. I’m trying all the time and my Key worker is helping me. Getting the right place is important. As long as it is out of the city and quiet. Otherwise you’ll bump into your friends and one thing will lead to another. You hope that it won’t but you know that it will. I’d end up back on the drink.

I’ve had this feeling that it is time to wisen up, that I am older, that I don’t want it (the tablets and alcohol) anymore. It just was not helping me. I’m three weeks dry and I want to stay that way.

There is no point looking back. It is the future you look to not the past. I have a child now and I need to focus on him. He is my everything”.

Read more personal experiences of homelessness