Tuesday 19 March 2019

'I just wanted a little roof over my head' - Dublin woman (66) feared the worst before charity intervention

Ann says she loves the house she is in now. Photo: Jason Kennedy
Ann says she loves the house she is in now. Photo: Jason Kennedy

Jason Kennedy

An elderly woman spoke of the heartache she endured while living in a cramped converted attic for a number of years.

Portobello native Ann Parsons (66) lived in the one-room flat, which she said severely affected her mental health.

"I suffer with depression and I was there in that black hole of Calcutta. I spent my days and nights just sitting there, looking into space, feeling sorry for myself," she told Independent.ie. 

"I get very nervous and this was not the place for me. I just wanted a little roof over my head.

"One of my friends would come to visit me and she said she would go home and cry after looking at me there in that one dark room, where you have to get into bed to keep yourself warm."

Ms Parsons, a former hairdresser, wrote to charity Alone describing the conditions she was living in and outlining her mental health issues. Following a series of interviews, Ann met with an employee for a final meeting in the cosy house she would eventually call her home.

"When I came to view here and saw here, 'my God,' I said. 'Wouldn't it just be lovely.'

"I would be so happy in myself, but, you know, I couldn't build my hopes up naturally."

Not long after, the charity got in touch with Ms Parsons to tell her the house was hers, much to her delight.

"I couldn't believe it. I was so overwhelmed and-- just so, so happy.

"All I can say is that I love it. I really do. I'm so happy."

Ms Parsons has now been living in her one-bedroom home for five years and has decorated it with family pictures, flowers and angel figurines.

She lives in Willie Bermingham Place - named after Alone's founder - alongside other older people, who regularly meet up for community activities.

Alone, which was set up in 1977, offers accommodation for senior citizens, many of whom would have been at risk of homelessness.

In the days running up to Christmas, the charity prepared 500 hampers, Christmas dinners and events so that at risk elderly people are catered for and happy.

For some people, the main part of the hamper appeal is not the hampers themselves, but rather knowing that someone is thinking of them, according to Alone's  Service's Manager Brian Lamb.

"We're in touch with them, we're calling around to give the hampers and that gives us an opportunity to check in and make sure they know there's somebody there to help if times get tough."

Volunteering with Alone is not just about putting time aside to do a good deed, but rather about striking up a friendship, said long-time volunteer Bronagh Maguire.

"With the lady I visit, we put the kettle on straight away and have a cup of tea, have a chat and catch up on the week and see what she was up to," she said.

"She's very interested and she wants to get to know you as a person as well. It's really sweet."

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