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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Janet Hunter - Director, Housing Rights Service

Janet Hunter has been the Director of Housing Rights Service since 1994.

Janet sits on the Promoting Social Inclusion partnership, a cross departmental group aimed at tackling homelessness in Northern Ireland. She is also a long term member, and former Chair, of the Management Committee of Law Centre NI. 

She describes her memories of her first 'home'.

Over the years I have lived in many houses.  Different shapes, sizes, tenures and places.  Being asked to write this piece helped me to realise that I would only ever describe two of these as “home”.  Looking back, the rest were just temporary stopping points in the journey which has taken me from the home where I grew up with my parents and brother to the one where I live with my husband and daughter now.

My childhood home was on a hill farm in the Glens of Antrim.  It was an area of outstanding natural beauty, but a remote and sometimes inhospitable environment for the people who lived there.  The people, like the sheep, were a no nonsense hardy breed.  There was a deep rooted sense of belonging, not only to an immediate family but also, to a much wider rural community.

As a child though, I fully appreciated neither the beauty nor the bonds.  As a teenager in particular, I felt these “roots” were holding me back.  I couldn’t wait to leave for the promised excitement of a new home in the city.  It turned out to be, the first of my many stopping points.

The passing years have of course, brought the gifts of both hindsight and humility.  I recognise now how incredibly lucky I was to grow up, surrounded not only by such natural beauty but also with the security provided by that strong sense of community identity.  Most importantly, I realise the value of these “roots”. They were and continue to, hold me up rather than back.

I realise too, that a decent home should not be taken for granted.  Not everyone is fortunate enough to have one.  For many and varied reasons some people have no home at all.

How different and how much more difficult could life be if there was only ever a series of temporary stopping points?