I’m Janet* from Dublin, now 23. I come from a great family but never did well at school and didn’t have much confidence in myself. I always felt a bit empty inside, like something was missing. I did the typical teenage thing and ‘got in with the wrong crowd’. They were into drugs and I got into them too – very quickly. After a year the friends were gone, but the drugs were still with me – they seemed to fill up that empty feeling I had. But I always needed more and I ended up on the streets to try and get money for what I needed.
I was in a bad way by 2016 – I was on a mixture of heroin, tablets and alcohol. The year passed in a blur, but I know I was on the streets a good bit. I know I got on Ruhama’s van lots of nights when I was out. At first, I just wanted the hot coffee, but then I got to know them on the van a bit better and felt more relaxed to stay and have a chat, even when I was out of it. I actually got on great with those women – sometimes we had a real laugh!
At that time, I was living with my parents on and off, but because my drug use was spiralling and I was desperate for money, I started getting in trouble with the police. My folks kicked me out. I was homeless and staying in different hostels, which I never felt safe in. This was a pretty bad time for me and I remember talking a lot to the women on the van about my greatest fear – my parents finding out I was in prostitution. Over time I really started to feel I could trust them.
To try and help, they gave me loads of information about services like drug support and the sexual health clinic. I’d take the odd leaflet or the workers might Google a phone number for me and write it down. But I never took that stuff that seriously at first. I don’t think I was really ready to make a change and always said ‘no’ when they offered me their help. In my head I felt I would need to detox before I could even think about that.
Eventually I decided enough was enough – I couldn’t face another punter, no matter how off my head I was. Using some details the Ruhama van workers gave me, I contacted places for support.
Although I had tried and failed in the past – this time was different, and I managed to detox. Next, my support worker in the after-care programme arranged for me to go into Ruhama.
“I decided enough was enough – I couldn’t face another punter, no matter how off my head I was. Using some details the Ruhama van workers gave me, I contacted places for support.”
It was weird at first – this was my first time in their offices and seeing them in daylight! But it was nice to hear that some of the van workers had been wondering what I’d been up to seeing as they hadn’t seen me in ages. Since then I’ve done loads of stuff there – casework, where I could make my own care plan with my caseworker, counselling and some classes. I know it’s still early days, but my confidence is growing and I’ve had zero relapses. I’m finally making real plans for my future and best of all – sorting out my relationship with my mam and dad – that’s so important to me.
*Name and some details have been changed to protect confidentiality of woman