It’s easy to focus on the physical threat posed by Covid-19 but the pandemic is also having a wider impact on some of the most vulnerable women in our society.
Daisyhouse works to support women who have experienced homelessness by providing them with affordable accommodation and helping them to rebuild their lives. The charity has already given many Irish women a second chance but their invaluable work is under threat as a result of the current situation.
To find out more about the charity’s work, the challenges it faces in the current climate and the danger of more women falling victim to homelessness, we spoke to Daisyhouse CEO, Ena Norris.
Since 1989, Daisyhouse has operated as a registered charity and approved housing body to help individuals out of homelessness. It works primarily with women, providing them with temporary and long term affordable accommodation, and working to reintegrate them into society with personal support programmes that are tailored to their specific needs.
“Women can become homeless for a variety of different reasons,” explains Ena.
“We work with women who have clung to their lives after escaping the worst kind of domestic violence and/or sexual abuse, who have been trafficked or lost their jobs or had addiction problems or mental health problems. A number of our clients would have grown up in institutions or state care.
“Most of the women who are referred to us have faced combinations of these complex challenges. When this happens, they need space and time where they can address the trauma of their experience, where they can feel safe and secure and in time move forward with their lives. Daisyhouse provides this support, time and space.”
At any given time, the charity will work closely with around 40 individuals, who are referred to the charity by the HSE. In addition to providing short term and long term accommodation, their clients are given an 18-month personal support programme that includes counselling and practical supports.
“When people come to us, for a long portion of their lives they’ve lived in trauma and chaos and crisis. This is the first time where they’ve had a safe space to breathe and actually look at who they are and what they want to be.”
Daisyhouse helps these women to introduce structures that can aid their recovery and give them the foundations for a new life. An important aspect of this is the meaningful use of time, giving them the tools to examine the issues that may have contributed to homelessness and creating the conditions for them to thrive in their new life.
“We offer support for people to return to training, education and employment. We do that not only financially but also providing them with emotional and practical support to do that.”
While Daisyhouse is taking every precaution to ensure that all staff and clients are safe and protected from the virus, the pandemic is causing major disruption to their services and their clients’ new lives.
“One of the big issues for our clients is that meaningful use of time and structure is really, really important when somebody is recovering from life traumas. At the moment, all those structures have been decimated for our client group.”
The closure of education facilities, day programmes and support groups like NA or AA can all have an emotional or mental impact for these women.
“As much as I worry about people’s physical health in this time of pandemic, I’m just as concerned about people’s mental health,” adds Ena. “We’re trying our best to ensure that we support clients emotionally and mentally just as much as we support them physically.”
Another concern for Daisyhouse is that the home is not a safe place for many women. Domestic violence can be a common contributing factor to homelessness for many women.
“People that are living already in domestic violence relationships are going to be severely affected by it but there is also going to be a massive increase in domestic violence because of pressures in the family home now - everyone being together all of the time, an increase in use of alcohol, people losing their jobs, kids being home 24/7.
“It is absolutely going to increase the incidences of domestic violence and we’re extremely worried about that. There is not enough refuge space in this country in normal times so there certainly isn’t enough right now in terms of living through this pandemic.”
With just five members of staff, Daisyhouse’s ability to provide the services that they do is a challenge at the best of times. However, the cancellation of vital community fundraisers has left the charity facing a 50pc drop in funding for the year, just the costs of providing their services in a pandemic are increasing.
“That’s going to have a devastating effect on Daisyhouse,” says Ena. “We still need the same amount of income even though we’re in pandemic. We still have the same amount of clients and we still have to buy the same amount of provisions. We’re actually providing more provisions. We’ve also increased our counselling sessions and availability to clients.”
Ena urges the public to support Daisyhouse so that they can continue to provide the women they help with a second chance in life.
“I would just appeal to them to support people that have come so far in their journey, that are now becoming contributing women in society.”
If you would like to support Daisyhouse, you can make a donation on the website. Alternatively, you can make a donation directly to the following bank account:
Account Name: Daisyhouse Housing Association Ltd
Branch: 61 South Richmond Street, Dublin 2
National Sort Code: 93-11-60
Account number: 13722-055
IBAN: IE66 AIBK 9311 6013 7220 55