A homeless life: ‘I’d sneak on to a boat in Dún Laoghaire harbour and try to cosy myself’

Jodie Taite went from homeless teenager to straight A student after accessing Depaul accommodation

Jodie Taite became homeless at the age of 14 following a family breakdown. She moved from house to house, but often resorted to sleeping on boats in Dún Laoghaire harbour.

“I was back and forth [to her home] because of school. I slept on the streets some nights, but most nights I’d stay in Dún Laoghaire harbour. I would sneak on to a boat and try to cosy myself there,” the now 21-year-old said.

“Obviously it was still freezing, no matter how many blankets there were. No matter what I tried, it was always cold. Because I was such a young girl as well, I was scared, as a woman. I’d try to get down there early and hide, because people drink down there a lot and there would be a lot of dangerous people down there.”

Studying and school were the only stable parts of her life, she said.


If you enter homelessness at that early age and get stuck in homelessness, it really has serious consequences in terms of long-term unemployment and increased mortality

—  David Carroll, Depaul homeless charity

“I think that’s why I progressed. Any time I wasn’t in school it wasn’t stable, so any time it came to actually doing something productive, or to get me somewhere in life, I put my all in. It kind of blocked out the trauma when I was studying,” she added.

Aged 17 she moved in with a family member, but it quickly became a toxic environment. She was kicked out and homeless once more. To avoid sleeping on the streets, she moved in with an ex-partner.

“I really had no other choice. It was a cycle. He was too toxic. He was physically and mentally abusive. One dirty spoon left in the sink would result in two black eyes and a bloody nose,” she said.

Realising she could no longer continue this cycle, she applied for Peter’s Place, an accommodation service run by Depaul for homeless youths. She was on the waiting list for six months but said it was “worth the wait”.

Her tumultuous upbringing has had a huge impact on her mental health, resulting in anxiety and depression. But she feels like she is turning things around.

“It hasn’t affected my productivity. I won’t let it. I just finished my Leaving Cert, I got all straight As. I’m too determined in life to break the cycle and prove to everyone that people who are homeless are not victims, we’re survivors and we’re not numbers, we’re human beings,” she said.

David Carroll, chief executive of the Depaul homeless charity, said 40 per cent of its accommodation service users are now aged between 18 and 30. Previously, the majority would have been over 35.

The most recent homeless figures, from October, found there were 11,397 people accessing emergency accommodation, with more than 10 per cent of those aged 18 to 24.

“It’s a very serious issue for us. If you enter homelessness at that early age and get stuck in homelessness, it really has serious consequences in terms of long-term unemployment and increased mortality,” he said.

Speaking in advance of the charity’s Christmas campaign, Mr Carroll said there has also been an increase in the number of service users who have a care history.

“It highlights the need for aftercare services to be linked to what housing options are available. There needs to be the creation of specific, supported housing in the community to help these vulnerable young people, who have traumatic backgrounds and complexities.”

Mr Carroll said there is a need to focus on vulnerable groups. “We’re concerned if we have this prolonged period of young people in homelessness, we will have a generation lost in homelessness.”

A spokesman for the Department of Housing said Minister Darragh O’Brien recently launched a new strategy on youth homelessness, the first in two decades.

“It sets out 27 distinct actions to prevent young people entering homelessness, to improve the experiences of young people in emergency accommodation and to assist young people to exit homelessness,” the spokesman said.

Tusla, the child and family agency, said a multidisciplinary approach is required to support young people to move into independent living, “and to that end Tusla works in partnership with several agencies, both statutory and voluntary”.