Inspiring story | 

Dublin woman who was homeless tells how she turned her life around to qualify as a veterinary nurse

Lisa Mason turned her life around thanks to help from Dublin Simon
Lisa Mason is grateful every day that she has her own home.

Lisa Mason is grateful every day that she has her own home.

Esther McCarthy

Living for years as a homeless person, Lisa Mason would spend endlessly long days in despair at how difficult her life had become.

But with support she turned it all around and now offers hope to any person experiencing homelessness. She has gained qualifications in veterinary nursing and forensic science.

But every time she turns the key in the door of her own place, she still gets emotional.

“I don’t think people realise what it’s like to have a roof over your head after being homeless,” she says.

“When you’re in a hostel, you might have 20 people above you or people knocking on your door at four in the morning.

"So to have your own key and turn the lock in the door behind you, I still get emotional over it. If you’ve been through that experience it means so much to have your own space that you can call home.”

Now Lisa is paying it forward to the Irish charity that helped her turn her life around.

She’s backing Dublin Simon’s The Longest Day campaign on June 21.

Participants are being asked to set up a fundraising page and have a sponsored dip in the sea.

The Longest Day certainly resonates with Lisa, who found drawn-out days with little to do one of the bleakest and most difficult things about being homeless.

“It’s indescribable really because it’s not a life, you’re not part of anything, you’re not part of society.

"Every day is just so long. And because you’ve no structure, you have nothing to do, there’s always chaos.”

Lisa ended up homeless or using homeless services for some time after her life unravelled following a huge personal loss.

“I lost my partner tragically in 2010 and everything kind of went downhill from there.

"I suffered in my mental health, I was in a very dark place. I lost everything. Absolutely everything that you can think of, including my home.

"I went from having my own place — I had a good job, I was working in one of the big financial institutions in Dublin — to having absolutely nothing.”

During this time, she would share her experiences with other people who were homeless or interacting in support services. “I’ve met the best of people, but hearing their stories would break your heart.”

But even in the lowest of times, Dublin Simon maintained contact through their outreach services and were there to help her when she reached a turning point.

“Dublin Simon bend over backwards to try and get you back into some sort of normality.

"And that’s what I wanted to get back to, the normal life that I did have. That’s what I pushed for.

“I think in the last year, people’s eyes have definitely been opened more, because we’ve seen people lose everything.

"But two or three years ago, homelessness equalled addiction and alcoholism.

"People don’t go out purposely to do this, to end up in this kind of life. I know I didn’t.

"It was hard and I hurt a lot of people and there’s still consequences that I’m paying the price for and probably will do for a long time to come.

“It would make you feel so inadequate. It could be six in the morning, and if you’ve been sleeping there could be people with a hose just whooshing you out of the way.

"It’s a horrible thing. A lot of people who are homeless don’t like to go into the hostels, for their own personal reasons.

"A lot of people prefer to sleep on the street and that’s really sad as well.”

Eventually, Lisa was provided with emergency accommodation with the support of Dublin Simon and it was during this time she decided to take the challenging and life-affirming steps to turn her life around.

“When I was in the emergency accommodation, that’s when I said: ‘No, I want my life back the way it was’. I knew it would never be... I’d lost the love of my life.

"I’m still single 11 years on.

“But I wanted to get back into education. I knew that was the start because I’d been unemployed for a few years. I just wanted to get back into doing something that I was passionate about.”

Those passions included forensics — Lisa has been fascinated with crime and solving crime for years as well skincare and animals.

She is now a qualified veterinary nurse and also completed a forensics course, finishing top of her class.

She has no doubt what the best thing about changing her life has been.

“My family. I put them through an awful time. Now we have such a great relationship.

"My parents are absolutely amazing people, my whole family are. Family was the main thing for me because I wasn’t there for occasions, and I never want that to happen again.”

Though a year of Covid has brought more difficulties and delayed further studies,

Lisa is optimistic for her future and keen to get a job. She has also taken on a rescue dog, a husky named Luna, who she adores.

“People say to me: ‘You’ve saved her life’. No, she has definitely saved mine. She’s amazing, she really is.”

  • Taking place on June 21 and in partnership with Irish printmakers JANDO, Dublin Simon is calling on everyone who can to get involved and support some of the most vulnerable in our society, people for whom every day is the longest day. Public support can be offered by a simple donation, fundraising for your own dip on the day or by buying a limited edition JANDO print with proceeds going to this worthy cause. To register for The Longest Day challenge, log on to

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