Homeless mother Erica Fleming finally started her first day at Trinity College yesterday after initial setbacks and said she was determined to get out of the poverty trap for the sake of her daughter, Emily.
Erica, 30, has been homeless and living in a Dublin hotel with her daughter, Emily, 10, for over than a year.
But the former office worker feels she now has her best shot at success thanks to the Trinity Access Programme.
I’m really excited about going back to a classroom for the first time since school. Me and Emily went to get my college supplies yesterday and she threw her arms round me and said ‘Mam, I’m so proud of you going to college.’ It’s added pressure that this means to much to my daughter – but that will be the very thing that will continue to drive me.
Erica will be studying maths this week and will then focus on social studies and politics among other subjects and she is keen to go in to social work or politics when her studies are complete
There was an initial setback to her plans to attend college when she was refused the Back to Education Allowance but she has since learnt she could access a job seekers’ transitional payment.
She knows things will be tight for her and Emily but she feels ready to embrace the challenge.
She explained: “I’ve always had a wage and knew how I’d live, so it’s going back to a student environment and having a daughter to support that I’m particularly overwhelmed about.
“But I know other people do it so I’m sure I can too – I just need a plan and once I get that in place, I will feel better.”
Erica only found out about the welfare subsidy, after initially being refused the back to education allowance, by accident and feels there should be more “transparent” allowances available.
And she was shocked it made such big news without anyone from the Government stepping forward to state there was another option.
She added: “If you’re trying to better yourself and get yourself out of poverty, the social welfare should encourage you to do better – to get away from the poverty trap.
“Everyone likes to say lone parents want to sit at home and do nothing. That just isn’t true, there is no support for you to do that, even when you’re asking for help.
“The system needs to be more transparent for the benefit of people that just want to do better for themselves, so we can gain that support.”