“The psychiatric system that I went to for help just kept pumping me up with tablet after tablet – up to 50 or 60 a day at one point,” Mags says. “. . . I was getting injections as well – I never knew what they were – and couldn’t get out of bed for days afterwards . . . I’d be asking people what day of the week it was. I didn’t know. I’d be drooling from the mouth.”

There were inpatient stays in mental hospitals, too. So many now that she can’t remember. Back on the street, she used crack, heroin or alcohol to ease the pain. Many of those she met on the streets died through overdoses, medical complications, suicide or other reasons.

Just over a year ago, Mags suffered a brutal assault. She could feel her life slipping through her fingers as she lost several pints of blood. She recovered, but she wasn’t sure if she could survive another setback. By now she was living in a homeless shelter in Cork.

When she was told about Slí Eile, a community therapeutic centre in the countryside, she was skeptical at first. “It sounded like the kind of place that was full of nuns,” she says. “But another girl – a previous tenant here – told me, ‘My neighbours were the bird; you’ll be safe and get your life sorted out’.” (Times) >