A Documentary Shares Three Mothers' Experiences of Homelessness

Ingrid Casey became a single parent about four years ago, she says. In the fallout, she almost became homeless.

“It all dovetailed at a really bad time,” she says.

When she later heard about the death of Danielle Carroll – a young mother who took her own life last September after an offer of housing was withdrawn by South Dublin County Council – it hit a nerve.

“All I could think was fuck that could so have been me. I’d survived a super emotionally and financially abusive relationship by the skin of my teeth,” said Casey.

“She seemed like a vulnerable girl, and as a mother of two little boys roughly the same age bracket, it just stayed with me,” she said. It wasn’t a one-off.

“Watching the news, the stories kept coming,” she says.

Casey has worked as dental nurse, a copy-writer, an English teacher, and a poet. She also has an MA in English. She felt she had agency.

So she started asking around a new circle of artistic friends for help on a project – she just didn’t yet know what it would be.

Made with Favours

It turned out to be a documentary, Through the Cracks, which follows the lives of three women and their children through their experiences of homelessness. The film is now available online.

Casey thought Conor Horgan was a photographer when she approached him, but the director suggested making a film. “Which seemed hilarious but also intriguing,” she says.

Horgan brought in documentary filmmaker Nathan Fagan, who alongside filmmaker and musician Luke Daly, runs Bold Puppy, an independent media company with a focus on music videos.

Casey spent hours on the phone talking to people, she says. Erica Fleming, who Casey had previously interviewed for a blog, was also on board.

“We found Shauna who was homeless about two weeks at the time of interview, and Jenny who’d been in the hub a year, and Erica, to reflect back on her time being homeless,” says Casey. “All of them had children aged between 4 and 11.”

The team put the film together on favours from friends. “It’s something to be proud of, because it was done pro bono,” says Casey.

An Evolving Project

The film is a modest 10 minutes. It is shot in parts of the Maynooth campus, a hotel, and a few other places.

It uses actors and a priests’ training college to mimic a former Magdalene Laundry, but the voices are real. “We didn’t want it to be completely anonymous,” Fagan said.

The aim is to get people talking, he says. “To give the women a voice.”

There’s enough expert commentary out there, but there needs to be more from those who are affected, says Fagan. “We feel it’s more powerful that way.”

Making the film made him realise how close so many people in Ireland are to homelessness, he says.

“One of the strong angles is the mental-health point. Is this going to develop or cause trauma?” said Fagan.

Casey says many more homeless families have now come forward, saying they want to be interviewed. She intends to capture their stories to try to personalise the crisis and restore empathy, she says.

She might go for a format similar to the “In Her Shoes, Women of the Eighth” Facebook page, which shared stories, in the lead-up to the recent referendum, from women who had been affected by the 8th Amendment.

Mostly, Casey would like for people to suspend judgment and see these families for who they really are: blameless children, blameless parents, she says.

The children go to majorettes classes and drama classes. The mothers drive cars and hold down jobs, she says

“I’d hope the viewer remembers they were once a child, that this is still our world, and it’s made by us, the citizens,” she says. “We can change it.”

A screening of Through the Cracks is scheduled for today, Wednesday 25 July at 6pm at the Inspire Galerie at 56 Gardiner Street Lower, Dublin 1.

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Zuzia Whelan: Zuzia Whelan is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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