If you look back to your childhood, and your home environment, it will bring back a range of emotions connected to memories spent there. Some have many happy memories. Christmas and Easter holidays, long summer breaks when house rules were relaxed, parents became a little more flexible until school doors opened in September.

Others will have different memories. Their experiences of home life may have been darker, triggering very real memories of being afraid, feeling insecure, feeling unsafe, trying to identify unpredictable energy/moods and the consequences of such, unstable environment.

Many years ago, as part of training, I researched an American psychologist called ABRAHAM MASLOW. His theory around the concept of hierarchical needs made so much sense in terms of achieving self actualization (becoming who we are really meant to be, our authentic selves).


When we are born into our respective worlds, we have no control over the environment that we are brought into. Not all parents are healthy, and not all environments are nurturing, and when you have a mix of both, growing up can be tough. Where we start is often where our minds remain for a long time, long after childhood has gone.

We move out, we move on. Life rolls in behind us, and we navigate a path that paves the way for our future. We make our homes, often based on what we have learned from our childhood experiences or memories. Sometimes we get it wrong, we repeat patterns, or continue with a series of patterns that are familiar to us. Change can always be achieved with awareness, and we do get opportunities to try again, in our bid to live our best lives and be our best selves.


According to Maslows hierarchy of needs, he suggests that we have to understand and meet a series of needs and the importance and relevance of reaching these needs to successfully achieve self actualisation. These needs are:

1. Physiological – Food, water, warmth, rest. 2. Safety and security – Feeling safe within the world we live in, reducing our vulnerability, increasing our chances of survival. 3. Love/Belonging – Intimate relationships and friendships. 4. Esteem needs – a feeling of accomplishment, satisfaction or worth. 5. Self Actualization – Achieving our full potential, including creative activities. Living our best lives, basically.

Obviously, our most basic need is for food, water, warmth, and rest, these are the things that enable physical development – life. These needs must be met to sustain life. Then we come to the second phase, bearing in mind – that each level must be attained in order to go to the next phase – so we look at safety and security. There are various aspects of our lives where safety and security are important. Financial security, and environmental security would probably be the most obvious. The impact of instability in these areas have been studied, in terms of how it affects the mental health of those who don’t have access to a space where they feel safe and secure.


What does home mean to you? Do you own your own home? Do you rent? Do you feel secure about where you live. Throughout Europe, the rental markets have thrived, and many people have opted to rent. In Ireland, we have always been encouraged to buy our homes, because this has its benefits in terms of security and retirement. When the downturn occured in 2008, many home owners didnt realise the impact that this would have on their position in society, or in terms of the instability that entered their lives when they began to struggle with mortgage repayments. A home, according to Maslow, is somewhere that you feel safe and secure, it’s a place where your children lay, and play, where they live worry free, in their own little spaces, in the place that is their closest world.


We still live with such uncertainty. Twelve years have passed and the struggle to meet the need of security and the feeling of safety continues for far too many people. From the perspective of the ones who have not yet had their needs met. Those who are at the bottom of the pyramid. Those who are struggling in hotel rooms or Direct Provision centres. These are the people who are stuck – many of them children.

When we look back, and take into account what has been taken, and what has not been replaced or nurtured, we may begin to understand. The importance of private spaces, within safe walls where dreams or ideas of an enthusiastic and developing little mind fits in this world – where they belong – what they deserve. Where they are welcome, where they are not. When we look into the eyes of a child who eats a meal provided on the streets, or walks in the rain because doors have closed, or dreads that last ring of the school bell, before the holidays start. Then we will understand what home really means.

We should all be instrumental in voicing our concerns about homelessness.

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