By Laura Lynott @Ly211
A HOMELESS mother has realised her dreams after winning a place at the prestigious Trinity College – and she now hopes she can finally break out of the poverty gap for her daughter.
Erica Fleming, 30, has been homeless with her young daughter, Emily, 9, for almost a year. The mother and daughter have been living in emergency accommodation.
In a bid to fight her way out of poverty, Erica, who is a campaigner for the homeless, applied to Trinity College – an institution she felt was out of reach financially.
And now she hopes attending Ireland’s top college will inspire Emily to follow in her footsteps.
“I didn’t dream I’d get accepted,” Erica said. “I am over the moon, thrilled. My daughter Emily was recently there on a tour before I applied, so it’s a big deal for her too. She is so proud of me.
“I kept saying to Emily ‘You’re going to college,’ and she said couldn’t – that we wouldn’t have the money. She said she needed a laptop to go – and I said we would do it. That she is going to do well. And now I am going to one of the best colleges in the world and that has showed my daughter, she can do it.
“This has been a very tough year – I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be accepted in to such a prestigious college – but I have to say I don’t think I’d even have applied if I hadn’t been homeless.
“This adversity has pushed me on – to fight.”
There were only 25 places to get on the course and Erica impressed the college so much she was one of the lucky ones to gain a spot on the free Trinity Access Programme – the same course a woman she feels is ‘inspirational,’ attended.
Newly elected Senator Lynn Ruane, a single mother-of-two from Tallaght, Dublin, managed to gain a place on the course aimed at disadvantaged students and went on to study a degree and become Trinity Student Union President.
Erica has watched Lynn’s progress from a poorer background, with the odds against her and she now believes she can achieve success too.
Erica will be studying several modules including, social studies, law, and ironically, political studies.
The mother, who works part-time to support her daughter, has spent recent months lobbying Government on homelessness as the toll of those in emergency accommodation hits a record high.
But she insists she has no plans of entering the political arena for a career. Instead Erica says she would like to become a social worker.
And after completing the access programme, she then plans to study a degree at the college.
Erica credits Dublin Social Democrat Councillor Gary Gannon with spurring her on to apply to the institution, after he gave her a pep talk that she was capable of studying there.
Erica said: “I said to Gary, I couldn’t afford to go to Trinity and he told me about this course and said ‘Erica, you can go to Trinity. Look at all you’ve done without anyone holding your hand.’
The single mother recently gave an impassioned speech at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis and she is a regular contributor to TV and radio shows on the housing crisis.
“Trinity College is famous across the world,” Erica said. “I still can’t believe I’ll be going there. I could change everything now. I can change our future.
“This is the happiest I’ve been in a long time and I know I’m inspiring my daughter and to do it after what we have been through – it makes it all the more unbelievable.
“I am literally on cloud nine, I can’t believe it. My life, my daughter’s life, could change from here. It’s like I am one step on the ladder.”
Last year Erica and Emily appeared in the RTE TV documentary, My Homeless Family. This was the first time the nation got a glimpse in to the lives of an increasing number of families who have become homeless.
New figures show there are now more than 1,000 families and over 2,000 children living in emergency accommodation and the state spent €16million on hotels for the homeless last year in Dublin alone.
The Government expects to spend €50 million accommodating families in hotels this year, without any sign of the crisis abating.
Rents are increasing across the country and in particular in Dublin and Cork and many families have been priced out of the market.
It has also been revealed that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find hotels for families, as tourism season gets underway.
A report has also stated that homeless children are sleeping in adult hostels and in one case, on blow-up beds.
Erica said it was incumbent upon new Housing Minister Simon Coveney to “take action now and not in six months’ time – that’s too late. These families need help now.”