A Clare-based mother, who was once homeless on the streets in London, is raising funds for a mobile shower for homeless people in Ennis, saying, “I believe people deserve to be treated with dignity. For homeless individuals, having access to a hot shower is the first step in reigniting a feeling of self worth.”
Fiona Faulkes has been living in Ennis for nearly 10 years and regularly helps the town’s homeless, having experienced first-hand sleeping under cardboard in England’s capital.
She describes becoming homeless as feeling like “the whole world is going to just collapse”. However support from those working with people on the streets in London as well as others who were homeless helped her get through it.
She is now hoping to raise €10,000 through an online GoFundMe campaign to buy a caravan and convert it to give people living on the streets here in Clare a wheelchair accessible place to wash and dress.
“This is just a little bit of help to let people get cleaned up and maybe have a flask with a cup of tea afterwards. It’s a simple thing, but it’s about dignity. The difference being clean can make, it empowers you.”
Fiona first became homeless in the early ‘90s, and after attending university she again found herself without a place to live, spending five years in all on the streets.
While homeless she was struck by the sense of community amongst others living on the streets, and the support that was being offered to help in London.
“After university I had no money for a deposit so I literally stepped straight onto the streets again. I used to busk, I played classical flute, and I’d stay on North Audley Street, just off Oxford Street.
“There’s a little church there with pillars and I used to sleep there. At night I would go across the road to the burger place and I would get loads of cardboard and set up and then in the morning I would play some music at Marble Arch at rush hour.
“Then I’d have a couple of quid for the day centre to get cleaned up. It had its down days, but it was ok and you could survive.”
She continues, “The sense of homelessness is when you are falling, your debts are getting too much and you can’t cope. You feel the whole world is going to just collapse. But when you do actually lose everything, there is a community there that saves you.
“Everybody looks out for everybody. There is a camaraderie, there are people with experience and they tell you where to go to get food or to get clean. It is then you realise how important people are, those strangers who really care. They are the ones that make the difference.”
It was this experience that led her to try and help those in Ennis who are now without a home.
“Now everything is fine for me. I have got a lovely house, my kids are going on 19 and things are going well. I’ve worked for it, and this is where I am.
“When I first moved to Ennis I noticed the state of the homeless community, and when my children were older I started to get involved through Josie O’Brien, giving out dinners, dry bedding and other bits and bobs.”
The idea for the shower has been with her for some time, she explains.
“I found out there is no drop in centre or day centre here, nowhere for them to get cleaned up.
“I was on the streets for a good number of years in London and we could get up and go to the day centre, get some cheap food and a shower, wash our clothes.
“There was a nurse and a doctor. You came into the day feeling clean. I know people who actually went to work while sleeping on the streets because they blended in.”
Having seen the effect having a place to wash can have on those who are homeless she decided to do some research and discovered places in America and Australia offering mobile showers.
She has found a local company willing to convert a tow-able caravan to provide a shower, a chemical toilet, wash basin and a dry area to dress that would be wheelchair accessible.
“It will need to meet health and safety requirements and have public liability insurance and I’ll need to buy a used caravan that is structurally sound and watertight.”
Fiona has contacted Clare County Council with a view to determining what permissions are needed and a suitable location for the proposed facility once fundraising is complete.
She concludes, “It is not just about people having a shower, it is also about the way people are treated, with care and respect, in a safe, welcoming space. A simple step towards leading a more sustainable and healthy life.”
To contribute to the fundraising campaign go to the GoFundMe page