Homelessness is a condition whereby people live without a permanent dwelling, be that a house or apartment. People who are homeless are most often unable to require and maintain regular, safe and secure housing based on a variation of reasons.
The majority of us understand the definition of what it is to be homeless but do we know what that actually means? It means no home, no safety, no consistency and for many, no hope. It’s time to open our eyes and reflect. It’s time to think about our selective blindness towards the people we pass each day. It’s time to see these people as more than a label.
36 years old.
25 years homeless.
Homelessness has reached an all time high in Ireland. There are 7, 168 people living without a home. That accounts for 4,760 adults and 2,408 children.
There was family problems. I ran away from home a few times, backwards and forwards and then when I got my own home, I had kids. The social workers took them away from me and put me out of my own home, says Wayne.
He has been homeless since the age of eleven.
Following family issues he had no choice but to leave. He sits in a doorway as the heavy rain falls. He clutches his bandaged leg. “I fell off a horse years ago and developed a blood clot, I’ve been in and out of treatments for years but no joy.” I ask him if he feels there is anyone out there that can look after him; “No I feel totally alone, I have two kids, my mother looks after my daughter and another girl I went out with, her mother looks after my boy.” “Do you mind me asking if there was drugs involved?” “Yeah there was, I’m on a methadone programme now and that helps.” Wayne states that when he lived rough in the U.K, it was easier to make enough money to get by because the concentration of those living on the streets was lower. Here the concentration is too high. People are ignored. Voices are unheard. Wayne is forgotten.
53 Years Old
5 Years Homeless
In a study entitled “100 Homeless Women”, half of those surveyed said they had experienced sexual violence. 63% said they had been raped on at least one occasion.
Rosanna is deaf and can only communicate through sign language.
We sit on O’Connell Connell bridge and speak through gestures, and through gestures, she tells me of her harrowing situation. She says she came from the Dominican Republic but fell on hard times. Now she sleeps here on the bridge or on a side street along O’Connell Street towards which she points.
Rosanna is the only woman who sits alone that is willing to speak to me. Others say they will get in trouble and look around nervously. In one case, a man stood a few metres away and stared me down. She said it was not safe and to leave her alone.
While I ask Rosanna about her life, she is eating a biscuit. It would appear that it is a struggle for her as she takes small trepidatious bites. She has few teeth. I ask her if she feels safe on the streets and she shakes her head solemnly. She gestures, “no food, no sleep, it’s too cold”
23 years old
5 years homeless
Focus Ireland has labeled youth homelessness as Ireland’s “forgotten homeless. Landlords, social housing bodies and local authorities are reluctant to rent to them. Reduced welfare rates for under 25s has added to the problem resulting in homelessness for many.
“My mother passed on and my father hit the drink very hard, I think it was just the depression, his way of dealing with it. It was unbearable to live with so me and my two brothers moved out, there was no hostels where I was from in Tipperary.” Adams now lives alone on the streets of Dublin, following the migration of one brother to Canada and the other who pursued studies in Cork.
I ask him if he could stay with his brother. “My little brother has a girlfriend, he’s going to college, I don’t want to interrupt his life. He lives in student accomodation, he’s doing great for himself.” Stephen states that he will be doing his Leaving Cert in two weeks with a scheme run across from The Garden of Remembrance. For one euro every Wednesday, he can avail of teachers who understand what you’re going through, a support group and counselling. I ask if he takes drugs and he says it’s the waiting game. He’s currently trying to get onto a methadone programme. “They said it would be two or three weeks, this is the fifth week.” I state the obvious and ask him how he manages when he’s so young. “I’m the only one looking after me, I’d love to get into art and animation, graffiti is my favourite but I’d never write my name.”
26 years old
2 years homeless
There are 10,000 people on a methadone programme in Ireland today. Over the last few years, the number of those who have died of a methadone overdose has surpassed the number of those who have died from heroin abuse.
“When I was about 18/19, I ended up on heroin due to stuff that happened in my life and I couldn’t handle it. I had a stroke when I was 21, I got clean then. Now I only take prescription tablets and smoke a bit of cannabis and that’s it.” John’s dad has been a heroin addict for the last 20 years and hasn’t been in contact with him since he was a young boy. He states that his mother acted as a 2 in 1, a mother and a father. “She was trying to help me but I was stealing stuff from the house, it’s degrading as the years go on.” Adams states that he will go back to his Mother’s home in Dublin 4 this evening because of the weather. In general he doesn’t return to his Mother’s home. “There’s so much history there and bad stuff that has gone on between us that it’s better to stay away.” He has trouble swallowing and the weather aggravates this. He can’t stay at the hostels because he will be triggered by those who are still taking heroin, often he sleeps in a doorway but it is raining heavily today.
He states that the hostels are disgraceful and dangerous however the soup runs have gotten a lot better in the last few months. “It’s a shit situation but there’s people out there who have had a worse life than me, there’s people with a worse background, a worse bringing up and they’re fine. I just wasn’t as strong-willed as them. I didn’t have a father figure growing up to support me and tell me what was wrong and right.”
Tom and Rose
17 years together
2 weeks homeless
One family is becoming homeless each day in Dublin alone.
“Our son is 8, he was 8 last week. I had to put him into temporary care because I was scared. When I tried to stop them from hiding drugs in my house, they put a blade to my head. That’s why I’m wearing this hat. They held a gun to my knee and my son seen me getting bait around every night so I had to put him into care because he was going out of his head.” Rose states that they have a home but it’s run by fifteen year old drug dealers. Regardless of reporting it to the Gardaí, she states they won’t even address it.
Tom was recently released from prison. “I was shoplifting, robbing fucking food for us to eat because we need to look after our son but they won’t arrest those thugs who come in and beat her and demand 50 euro a week, we didn’t have a choice.” Tom and Rose have a flat that they can’t live in, they assure me that this isn’t a joke, that it’s not made up. It’s a reality they can’t escape. They have meetings with their social worker next week but time is passing quickly and they continue to receive notifications that their meetings have been cancelled or postponed. Until they get a transfer to a safe home, they will remain in the tent, in an exposed place, where they could easily become the victims of those that ran them out. “It’s like a film, it’s too mad. In a split second and our whole lives have been changed.”
“The republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities of all it’s citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally.” The Irish Proclamation of Ireland.
Our fellow citizens are dying younger because they don’t have a place to call home.
Their average life span is 42 years old.
These people are homeless but they are more than a label
There are currently 198, 358 homes in the state that lie empty, that accounts for 13% of the total housing stock. It’s a vicious cycle that those in power must work to eradicate rather than talk around. We too, must acknowledge and care for these real people. We must open our eyes and think because regardless of their situation, the world will continue to spin and the wrong people will continue to win.