FORMER Cork Simon service user Jennifer Dennehy has given a harrowing account of her own experiences of sleeping on the streets, struggling with addiction and the long road to recovery.
Launching Cork Simon’s Impact Report, Jennifer spoke of the trauma of her partner’s untimely death which lead to a drug relapse and homelessness and about her ensuing recovery and her struggle to find secure, affordable housing. She spoke of her deep and enduring love for her son who inspired her to turn her life around.
Recounting how she relapsed following the death of her partner, Jennifer said: “Within a few weeks, I lost my home, I lost my child, I lost the man I loved — everything.
“Drugs took everything from me. I tried treatment but I wasn’t ready to deal with the pain of everything and the guilt, because I was guilt-ridden. I left treatment and ended up on the street.”
Now living independently with support from Cork Simon’s Housing Support Team, Jennifer said: “I’ve lived a living hell and come out the other side. To have my own door, to feel safe at night, there’s nothing like it.
“I’m blessed to have the place and the support from Cork Simon.
“My key worker’s been there for me through everything and I am so grateful to have her. You need somebody that you can trust.”
In recovery for more than four years now, Jennifer felt the time was right to tell her story publicly with the intention of offering hope to people who may be where she once was: “I felt I had to survive so I put a mask on. Today that mask is off and I am who I was always meant to be — a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a grand-daughter and hopefully someone who can help others.
“I want to let other people that are in addiction, and their families that are going through hard times, know that there’s always hope there, there’s always help there — you’ve just got to be willing to accept it.”
Jennifer finished by saying: “I never realised, for a long time I had everything in front of me — a good family. And family is the most important thing in the world. Today they tell me how proud they there are of me.
“My brother tells me I’m the strongest woman he knows. If I can pull myself back from where I was and have the life I have today, anyone can.”
Meanwhile, another former service user of Cork Simon said he is hoping to repay the kindness of the homeless charity by going back to education with the aim of working for the organisation in years to come.
The 32-year-old, who did not wish to be named, is going back to college in September after tackling addiction during six years of homelessness.
“The only way is to help others, give back, share my experience,” he said.
“Show there can be change, give people hope that it can change.”