Tus Nua Apartments is the first service of its kind in Ireland supporting women leaving prison. Tus Nua was established by Depaul and is co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the ESF. The service works in close partnership with the Dóchas prison and the Probation Service in delivering safe secure accommodation for women with complex needs and a support programme aimed at preventing recidivism.
Helena is a service user at Depual’s Tus Nua service for women with complex needs, who have been released from prison and are at risk of becoming homeless. Read Helena’s story:
My life was very good until I got heavily involved in addiction. I was in my late twenties and I had had a bad accident, and that was the start of my addiction to pain killers. Eventually, at about thirty I ended up with heroin addiction. I was only about a year on heroin and I found myself in prison for the first time. I was also pregnant with my fourth child.
The last ten years have been a nightmare, living in homelessness and doing crazy things. I wouldn’t have considered myself a criminal as such, I was just doing things out of desperation, to get help. I found there wasn’t much support for people with heroin addiction so I was just doing things as a cry for help really.
I find here (Tus Nua) there are no barriers, it is very easy to talk to the staff about my addiction and I can be open and honest without being judged. I think they’re amazing, I really do. They work really hard and they really put the personal into it, it’s not just a job to them.
I had a good upbringing. I am the only person with a drug addiction in my family. It’s not something you plan, for me, it feels like an illness that I’m trying to battle to get better. I was never brought up to judge people. My mother always said to me, ‘you should never look down on someone unless you’re helping them up’.
I’m in fairly regular contact with my kids. I haven’t seen them too much but I’m just trying to get things organised before I do. I just want to be fit, healthy, and strong before I do so I know I can cope. They’re great kids. I can’t lie to them anymore; I hate promising them things when I can’t stick to my word so I’m just building up things before I travel to see them.
If I could get rid of my addiction in the morning and have it out of me I’d give my right arm. But it’s there and it’s a battle and it’s a daily thing that I have to go through to stay clean. It’s a full-time job but it’s worth it. I’m just glad to be alive and I’m lucky to be alive. I have a chance now and I’m going to take every opportunity I can get.
I don’t have any major plans at the moment. I used to have great plans. I’m keeping life simple at the moment. I’m just trying to manage my health, eat well, and get enough sleep. I go to meetings regularly, helping other people I find helps me a lot.