Showing how to break from the bleak cycle of homelessness

By Mary Dennehy

A DUBLINER, who didn’t have a place to call home from the age of 13, is sharing his story of homelessness at a unique event in Tallaght this weekend.

Patrick Skelly (38), who is participating in a homeless project in Tallaght called Come Walk in My Shoes, was put into care when he was just 13 and for the following 24 years he had nowhere to call home – until he secured a townhouse in Waterford two years ago.

Patrick Skelly at home with Mylo

Having family in Tallaght, Patrick told The Echo: “The last time I had a home was when I was 13.

“I had problems at home and problems in school, so was put into care when I was young.

“I kept running from the care home, it wasn’t the nicest of places, and when I hit 16 years I was brought to St Patrick’s [institution for young offenders].”

Now in recovery from addiction and in his final year of a social care degree, Patrick secured a home in Waterford two years ago – and now wants to share his story with other homeless people, in the hope of showing others that there is hope after a life on the streets.

“I received a lot of support to get where I am today,” Patrick said.

“A lot of agencies pulled together to secure a home for me and I was also provided with a care plan, which helped me to learn how to live independently and run a home.

“It’s pointless giving a person who was long-time homeless a house without any support and it’s vital that tailored support is given to individuals and families who are given homes – it benefits everybody in the long run.

“I know that there are pressures on homeless agencies, but people need to be given quality care if we are to break the cycle of homelessness.”

Patrick Skelly Come Walk in my Shoes
MESSAGE: Patrick Skelly with other participants at Come Walk in My Shoes

He added: “I’m coming to Tallaght to tell my story because I want people to see that if I can get out of homelessness, anyone can.

“My message is that there is hope, even if it doesn’t feel like that now.

“I now have a little dog Mylo, a girlfriend and a grandchild – things I never thought I would have.

“I also wake up everyday and can have a shower and make my breakfast, I’m a million miles away from where I was.”

Patrick is one of a number of people sharing their stories as part of a Tallaght-based project called Come Walk in my Shoes, which is running on October 1 and 2 between 2pm and 5pm each day.

The community-led event has been organised by the parishes of St Kevin’s, St Kilian’s, St Mary’s, St Aengus’s and St Dominic’s in collaboration with Tallaght Community Arts and with support from Focus Ireland Tallaght, the Intercultural Centre, local social justice groups and The Echo newspaper.

Open to all faiths and none, the event hopes to break down preconceptions and statistics around homelessness, showing the people and families behind the numbers – and will include homeless individuals and families from Tallaght, people living in reception centres and refugees.

The event, which will be presented in a dramatic and imaginative way, will see tents pitched outside a number of Tallaght churches – with storytelling, discussion and music, from the High Hopes Choir, on the menu.

For further details visit the Come Walk in my Shoes Facebook page.

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