End of homeless stereotypes to bloom at festival

A GARDEN designed by people who are or were homeless will feature at this year’s Bloom festival in a bid to break down common stereotypes.

A Place of Belonging will be the first ever design at the Phoenix Park event developed by homeless people.

Supported by Focus Ireland, it is hoped the creation will get more people thinking and understanding homelessness.

The concept for the garden comes from the participants’ own experiences and memories of home and represents key stages in their experiences of homelessness.

One of the participants, Michael Breen, who is homeless in Dublin, said: “A couple of years ago I lost my job and, soon after, I had a mental breakdown. It was a really difficult time for me and I lost my home.

“The worst thing about losing my home was the feeling of isolation. I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. I felt very alone.

“Being involved in this project has given me a community to be part of and has given me an overall feeling of being wanted again. I feel like I’m not on my own now, I’m not forgotten about, that I can do it and accomplish something. When we finish this project, I’m going to continue volunteering for Focus Ireland as I want to give something back for the support I received.”

Mr Breen said the garden aims to challenge the stereotypes of what people who are homeless can achieve.

“It does this by showing our achievements and our need, like everyone else, for a place to belong,” he said.

Volunteer professional gardeners and designers, including Damien Costello, have worked closely with those involved to help them realise their dreams.

Mr Costello said it was important to the team that the showcase matches the very high standard of all the gardens at Bloom.

“Equally important is that the garden incorporates a reflection of their journey from homelessness to home and I have been working with them to ensure that the design matches their vision, which is to tell their stories through this showcase,” he said.

Bloom attracts more than 60,000 visitors and takes place this coming June bank holiday weekend.

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