"I'm so glad to be alive."

Brave Letterkenny woman Ita has opened up about how the Simon Community has helped her change her life.

Twice an All-Ireland athlete in her teens, things took a turn for the worst when Ita developed arthritis, and when she was forced to give up her passion, she found it difficult to cope.

“I was born in Letterkenny Hospital in 1963. Growing up wasn’t easy but I had a very happy childhood. I had a career in athletics, I got very good at it, I got better and better,” she said.

“I developed arthritis at 15 or 16… I had to give up my beloved sport and I had a breakdown at about 17.”

“I was in the hospital longer sometimes that I was out of it, I had been getting shock treatment and it’s not the best really.

“I asked the doctor could I use the hospital as a stepping stone, and she provided me with accommodation in the hospital.”

However once Ita moved from the hospital, the conditions of her new home severely damaged her health.

“I neglected a lot of things in my life, I stopped going to mass and I put on a lot of weight through living on cheaper food and because I was living on my disability and I managed to get a place of my own.

“It wasn’t a great place I got, it was a cold garage converted into a flat. Around the time I was in that first place I got my first bout of pneumonia. That shows you how cold it was in it, and now I have to use oxygen at night. I’m lucky to be alive.”

Ita says that things began to improve for her after getting picked for an art course. The Simon Community reached out to Ita and said they had a place for her. She was overwhelmed when she viewed her new home.

“It was absolutely beautiful and bright and modern, and I knew then it was the place for me. It was just telling me ‘take me, take me, take me’, it was the making of me actually.

“I look forward to each day as it comes and waking up in the morning, I’m so glad to be alive.”

Although things got better for Ita, she wishes that her parents could see how far she has come.

“I’m just kind of sad as my parents aren’t here, and looking back on them now I just wish they could be still alive to see the changes I’ve made in my life and the help I got from the Simon Community,” she concluded.

Homeless in Ireland

The latest figures from The Central Statistics Office (CSO) show that 31 men and 9 women were homeless in the North West in April 2016.

The latest report showed that on the night of the 24th of April 2016 (Census Night), 6,906 people were either sleeping rough or in accommodation for the homeless. 4,018 were male, and 2,888 were female.

These figures however, do not take into account the ‘hidden homeless’, which includes people currently staying in emergency accommodation.

In July, childhood homelessness hit a record high, with children’s charity Barnardos revealing that 2,777 children are without a home.

Speaking yesterday, Advocacy Director of Focus Ireland, Mike Allen says; “We are in the middle of the worst homelessness crisis in living memory as nearly 8,000 people are homeless nationwide. Years of successive government underinvestment in social housing, together with spiralling rental costs have resulted in record numbers homeless in Ireland.”

Focus Ireland said there must be firm action taken in the coming Budget – which is on World Homelessness Day on Oct 10th – to fast-track delivery of social housing and also more steps to increase prevention for families and people at risk of losing their homes.


How you can help

North West Simon Community is working with those at risk of homelessness in counties Donegal, Leitrim and Sligo – but they need your help.

The Simon Community is hosting their Annual Sleep Out on Friday the 6th of October in Sligo and Letterkenny to continue helping people in need, as part of Simon Week which runs from the 2nd to the 8th of October.

If you’re willing to take part you can get in touch with Collette on 087 0552478 for the Letterkenny sleep out or Mary on 087 77008865 for the Sligo sleep out. You can visit their Facebook page or event page for more details.

If you can’t make it to the Sleep Out, you can help by donating, volunteering, and fundraising.

For more details visit www.northwestsimon.ie.