black sofa with christmas tree

I slept on a sofa – for three years

I liked it because I had somewhere to put my head – and I wasn’t out on the street.

The place  where I was staying was over-crowded.  There was  my friend, her sister, three brothers and her sister’s two kids –  in a three-bedroom house. It was terrible. There was no room.

black sofa with Christmas cushions

It was just mayhem.

My friend’s mum let me stay on the sofa for a month  – and it ended up being three years.

There was no privacy.  

I couldn’t have friends come to visit,  and I didn’t want people knowing where I was staying.

But I’m grateful that I had somewhere – a roof over my head. 

Sleeping on a sofa was far better than being out in the street.

I was always out. I always kept myself out, and only came in when it was bedtime.  And I was mortified when people came in and saw my bags of clothes beside the sofa.

It was just embarrassing really.

But then my friend’s mum told me there was no room for me to sofa-sleep any more.

When I was close to having my son it was time to get somewhere more suitable. I went to the Housing Executive and they told me there was nowhere available in Belfast – only Coleraine.

The Housing Officer said to me:  ‘You’re not that in need’.

I said to them I was on medication prescribed by my GP.   And I got them to contact my GP  and all of a sudden a place in Belfast became available.

view from sofa to door of cabinet

Me and my son live here. He’s two. When I moved here he was 4 months.

When I first walked in was like….wow! It’s huge… it’s massive! 

I was just over the moon… very happy. It’s more homely….and my son loves it.

I can come in and close my door.  It’s private, and very secure.

Now I can bring friends in. It’s like your own flat.

microwave centre of kitchen counter

This is ‘temporary accommodation‘.  

There was a sofa here for me and a table. 

I was given quilts and pillows for starting off. A microwave, toaster,  kettle… there were  beds and everything.  So, I just had to buy my own luxuries like rugs and curtains.

It’s usually for two years max  but I’m on good points –  which means I can stay here until I’m offered a  house.

If I was on low points I would have to leave after the two years.

chirstmas tree and star near window

I like the way the flat is laid out, but I don’t like the way it’s decorated.

The walls are all cracked and need re-painted.  

I can paint it, but just say I get a letter tomorrow and I’m offered a permanent home, it would be a waste of money.

You would probably have to paint it just in neutral colours because if I painted it…say red… it’s going to be hard for the next person moving in.

The kitchen.. everything’s grand.

It’s the living room walls  and the bedroom  that are the worst. 

The heating is terrible. It’s underfloor heating.  It takes hours to get even a wee bit warm. The heating is broken at the moment in the living room and the staff are getting it fixed.

re and black rug with black chair

To turn and make it more homely I bought my own curtains, rugs, duvet covers… and pictures.

That (cabinet) is mine,  it was given to me.

It’s beautiful because it lights up as well.  It’s lovely, but I want to get proper picture frames for it.  

That was only for starting off.  I can make it nicer.

Living here makes me more excited for a permanent home.

 But if I could, I would stay here forever.

I like the way it’s safe, secure… there’s  security on the door.  That’s what I like.. where I can feel  safe. I like living here.

open corridor with toys and pram

Since I’ve been here I have seen people coming in, and then going, and then new people coming in.

People moving on all the time

There are 24 people in the building including myself.  People with families..  we are all different ages

Everyone gets along because everyone’s going through the exact same situation.

When you’re living here the kids can go downstairs and play. There is a playroom. The staff also run activities:  painting, dance, stories… different things.

kitchen sink and window

This place is very easy to maintain and clean.

A clean house is very important. It makes you happier, it makes the place look nicer.

I love having a clean home.

They have washing machines and  tumble dryers.  But I also have a washing machine in my kitchen which they provided.  So I didn’t have to buy my own washing machine.

The fridge was also provided.

Everything was provided, except for luxuries.

My favourite thing is my bed –  because that’s my mattress.

I bought my own mattress.  It’s far comfier, it’s so cosy…it’s just my absolute favourite thing in here.   It was on sale, that’s why I got it.

In the morning I get up, get washed, get ready. My son gets up. I  make his breakfast get him washed and ready to leave him to day care  and then I go to college.

I’m studying journalism so that’s what I do every day, Monday to Friday. Except Wednesdays, when  both of us get up washed and ready and I go to another course which is all about confidence building.

They bring different groups in. It was Women’s Aid last week… employability … all different stuff going on for young mothers. It’s brilliant!

boy's toys stacked

People are judgemental because in people’s eyes being homeless is associated with drug addiction – which I never was.

I never tried drugs  –  and I would say I was homeless

The sofa I slept on was the same size as this one. It was a leather one too.

 Every morning.. packing everything away. But now I don’t have to do that.

reindeer decorations and tree

Now I want my own place that I can decorate.

My new place?  It could happen tomorrow.

You get three offers. 

Fingers crossed I get somewhere I like… a place that I want.  I’m not too fussed whether I get the option of a garden or not.. though I would take the garden for my son to play.

I wouldn’t like to live beside a park.. because of the underage drinking,  I wouldn’t like that, especially because of my son.

Also…no dampness.  

I don’t want to live somewhere if there is dampness –   especially with his chest as bad as it is with asthma.  So that’s very important.

It’s him before me, I have to think about him.

childs handprint picture on wall

Simon Community NI

“For many people the stereotype of homelessness is someone sleeping rough on the streets. However this is not the reality, particularly here in Northern Ireland. Thankfully, we don’t have the same level of street homelessness experienced in other parts of the UK and Ireland, but that doesn’t mean that the homelessness crisis is any less severe in Northern Ireland.

We aim to provide a better understanding of homelessness in Northern Ireland, so together we can move forward and end homelessness once and for all.”

Tel: 0800-171-2222

Nuala Rooney

I am designer, educator and researcher developing creative and holistic human-centred insights within the social/spatial sphere.

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