Sonia’s Story – ‘ When one is on the streets, they are alone, stressed and fearful. It is dehumanising!’

Sonia, who was supported by NOVAS’ west Cork TSS, shares her story

I was adopted at fourteen months old to a white middle class family, I never did fit in. I was always ostracised, I was always kept lesser than their children. I was pushed into thinking that I was not worthy. You will find most people that are on the street have either been abused or neglected.

As an adult, I was a business woman, I produced my own recipes with olive oil, chillies, aubergines and peppers… just different flavours. The business took off but physically I was not able to continue. I suffered from endometriosis for years and it was killing me. Because of my pride and determination, I would not stop working. But this was ultimately to my detriment. So I kind of hit a brick wall which was when I lost everything. I had to go for an operation and I nearly did not make it.

Because I was out of work due to ill health, the only accommodation that was available to me was substandard and unsuitable. There was no good or secure private rental accommodation, and if there was, it was too expensive.

I became homeless as my landlord would not accept HAP. I slept rough in a van and rented a piece of land. I had no hygiene facilities there, I had to poop in a bucket and empty it. They charged me €60 per week for the privilege.

I was in a desperate situation. I felt like I was being dismissed by landlords and by services.  Although I was homeless and had medical difficulties I was not a priority. I had to fight! I have learnt to deal with this trauma but only since being placed in secure environment. I could not have survived much longer being homeless. When one is on the streets, they are alone, stressed and fearful. It is dehumanising!

You cannot put your roots down because you are always prepared for fight or flight. It is really difficult to climb out of homelessness. People are on the street because of compounded issues, which is the reason I became homeless.

I have been very happy with the work of Patrick and NOVAS. I do not think I would have had my home now if the collaboration with NOVAS had not occurred. If I had any advice for others who are in the same situation that I was in, it is to not take ‘no’ for an answer. You may feel that you are not worthy, you are worthy, and everybody is worthy to have a home.

The whole thing was very difficult until I got this house. I pay my rent first thing, every week. This new chapter of my life means that I am now in a more stable condition. When I was homeless, I did not have a community because I was all over the place. I have got a community now.

When thinking about future employment opportunities, my passion would be food – it is kind of my thing. I feel that I have an opportunity to produce food here because we have a strong community. I have really good friends here and I am also taking over the lease of our community garden. I really enjoy being here. I kind of have fallen on my feet.