When Ciara Walsh looks at her 10-year-old daughter, she sees the next generation staring at her.
Our children are the future. That’s why it’s so heartbreaking to see my daughter worried about where we’re going to live. It’s not something a child should have to worry about,” says the 41-year-old nurse. “I agree with Michael D Higgins. The housing crisis is truly the scandal of our time.
Four and a half years ago, Ciara and her daughter’s life changed completely.
It was an ordinary mid-week morning. The community nurse was on her day job at Ballinteer when she began to feel unwell.
“I was going to my car to drive to see a patient and I remember feeling very strange. I managed to get in the car, but my right side wasn’t working properly.
“I managed to open the door with the key using my left hand.
“Then I tried to start the car but fell unconscious. I later found out I had an AVM [arteriovenous malformation]which is basically a cerebral hemorrhage.
About two hours later, a colleague of hers noticed while walking in the parking lot that Ciara was still in her car and had not left as scheduled to perform her nursing duties.
She realized something was seriously wrong and sounded the alarm, potentially saving Ciara’s life.
Ciara was rushed by ambulance to St James’s Hospital and then transferred to Beaumont, which specializes in the treatment of brain damage.
The following days, weeks and months passed in limbo for the single parent.
Recovery from brain injury can be a slow process and can impact a range of functions for patients, including mobility and cognitive ability.
“It affected my speech and my ability to write. I initially lost some movement on my right side as well.
“But last year in particular, I’m really starting to feel like myself again.”
Prior to her brain injury, Ciara had been saving for a mortgage.
Originally from Dalkey in South Dublin, she rented a flat near Ballybrack. “Before this happened, I was saving for a deposit towards a mortgage. I was also working towards becoming a public health nurse. Everything was on track, I had a plan. But then everything changed.
Ciara’s medical prognosis meant that she and her daughter had to return to her parents’ house for six months immediately following her AVM.
Mindful of her independence, she moved out when medically fit and returned to her rented flat in Ballybrack. Unable to return to full-time work, she had to dip into her savings to pay her rent. She realized that it was financially unsustainable and began to look into the state benefits she would be entitled to as a result of her brain injury.
Her landlord had given her a year’s notice that he was selling the apartment.
Ciara applied for Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and was eligible.
She started looking for a new home, thinking she had plenty of time, but virtually every homeowner she approached made it clear they wouldn’t accept HAP.
“When I said I was on HAP the reaction was just ‘no’. There is such discrimination. There are lots of reasons why people end up on HAP – mine is because of my medical injury Nobody wants to be in that situation.
“The government needs to organize an education campaign so that there is more awareness about HAP,” she said.
Finally, after a full year of relentless searching, Ciara finally found an owner who would accept payment.
She and her daughter have moved into a house in Dalkey and have made it their home for the past two years. But Ciara learned several months ago that she had to move because her landlord had plans for the property.
“The worst thing for me is that my daughter is worried. People think, ‘Oh, you’re from Dalkey, you must be rich.’ This is complete reverse snobbery.
“There are a lot of people in Dalkey and other areas like that who are struggling.”
Ciara recently applied for homeless HAP, which means she may be eligible for more financial assistance to cover her rent.
“Even if I hadn’t had the AVM, I would have had a very hard time saving for a home loan while renting. I would so love to own my house for me and my daughter. But it seems so far away. But for now, I’ll settle for a roof over our heads.