A homeless mother has fulfilled her dream after being accepted by the prestigious Trinity College — with hopes she can finally break out of the poverty gap.
Erica Fleming, 30, has been homeless with her young daughter, Emily, nine, for almost a year.
The mother and daughter have been living in emergency accommodation and last year they appeared in the RTÉ TV documentary, My Homeless Family.
This was the first time many people got a glimpse in to the lives of an increasing number of families who have become homeless.
In a bid to fight her way out of poverty, Ms Fleming, who is a campaigner for the homeless, applied to Trinity College — an institution she felt was out of reach financially.
And now she hopes attending Ireland’s top college will inspire Emily to follow in her footsteps.
“I didn’t dream I’d get accepted,” Ms Fleming said. “I am over the moon, thrilled. My daughter Emily was recently there on a tour before I applied, so it’s a big deal for her too. She is so proud of me.
“I kept saying to Emily ‘You’re going to college’, and she said she couldn’t — that we wouldn’t have the money.
“She said she needed a laptop to go — and I said we would do it. That she is going to do well. And now I am going to one of the best colleges in the world and that has showed my daughter she can do it.
“This has been a very tough year — I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be accepted in to such a prestigious college — but I have to say I don’t think I’d even have applied if I hadn’t been homeless.
“This adversity has pushed me on — to fight.”
There were only 25 places to get on the course and Ms Fleming impressed the college so much she was one of the lucky ones to gain a spot on the free Trinity Access Programme. She will be studying several modules including social studies, law, and political studies.
The mother, who works part-time to support her daughter, has spent recent months lobbying the Government on homelessness as the toll of those in emergency accommodation hits a record high.
But she insists she has no plans of entering the political arena for a career. Instead Ms Fleming says she would like to become a social worker.
And after completing the access programme, she then plans to study a degree at the college.
Ms Fleming credits Dublin Social Democrat councillor Gary Gannon with spurring her on to apply to the college, after he gave her a pep talk that she was capable of studying there.
“This is the happiest I’ve been in a long time and I know I’m inspiring my daughter and to do it after what we have been through — it makes it all the more unbelievable.
“I am literally on cloud nine, I can’t believe it. My life, my daughter’s life, could change from here. It’s like I am one step on the ladder.”
New figures show there are more than 1,000 families and over 2,000 children living in emergency accommodation and the State spent €16 million on hotels for the homeless last year in Dublin alone.
The Government expects to spend €50m accommodating families in hotels this year, without any sign of the crisis abating.
Rents are increasing across the country, in particular in Dublin and Cork, and many families have been priced out of the market.
It has also been revealed that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find hotels for families, as tourism season gets under way.
A report has also stated that homeless children are sleeping in adult hostels, and in one case, on blow-up beds.
Ms Fleming said it was incumbent upon new Housing Minister Simon Coveney to “take action now and not in six months’ time — that’s too late”.
“These families need help now,” she said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved