VIEW editor Brian Pelan reports on his recent visit to Dublin to look at the homelessness situation in the city
The cold air gripped me as I walked past the iconic GPO building in O’Connell Street, Dublin, on a Monday night recently. I’ve been a journalist for a long time now and whilst I have witnessed many shocking things, I was still totally transfixed by the scene I saw in front of me.
More than 200 people, young and old, were being fed at a soup kitchen. Many were homeless and all of them had an urgent need for some food to try and ward off the effects of the bitter weather.
I doubt this is what socialist James Connolly and the other leaders of the Easter Rising in Dublin envisaged when the Proclamation was read out on the steps of the GPO in 1916.
The facts about homelessness in the Republic of Ireland are grim indeed. A recent Dublin Simon Community’s impact report warned there will be 9,000 people homeless in Ireland by the end of 2018 and that there is a severe lack of health funding to meet these people’s needs.
Data also published recently by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive showed that during the week of October 18 to October 25 there were 1,425 children in 677 families in emergency accommodation.
Earlier in the evening in Dublin, I visited a project called A Lending Hand.
Volunteers from the group are on Dame Street in the middle of the city every Monday night where they offer free sandwiches, hot meals and sleeping bags (when available) to anyone living rough on the streets.
- Organiser Keira Gill said: “We’ve been here about four years now and we feed around 250 people every Monday night. Every other night we help families in our local area. We will support anyone who is homeless or who are struggling with a range of issues such as finances.
“I used to be a very materialistic person but then I began to think that there has to be more to life than just wanting material things.”
Kiera, who describes herself as “an activist’, is a part of a support organisation called the Irish Housing Network.
She is also studying at Trinity University where she has embarked on a degree course in sociology and social policy. Her long-term plan is to help create her own “humanitarian hostel that treats people like humans”.
“The figures concerning homelessness in the last few years frighten me. We need to have more rehab and addiction centres. Unfortunately, a lot of these places have been closed down in recent years due to funding cutbacks. We need to end the revolving door of homelessness.”
Later in the evening, I spoke to a woman called Aine who told me she had been homeless for the last five years.
Thirty-two-year-old Aine said: “I became homeless after my landlord sold up.”
Even though Aine has a job, she told me that can’t afford the rent for a home. “I sleep anywhere and everywhere every night. A lot of the times I’m lucky enough and I get a sofa in a friend’s or a relative’s house.But people have their own lives and you can’t stay there all the time.”
She is studying at university for a degree in community and youth work. She ruled out staying in a hostel. “I wouldn’t feel safe,” said Aine. She said that she works in the retail trade but that her wages were not very high. “I earn enough to be able to study but not enough to be able to pay rent also. “I want to have my own place and not to keep moving on. I really lack stability at the moment.”
And on that note of hope and sadness, Aine said goodbye to me and walked off into the night with her backpack on her shoulders and holding a carrier bag in her hands.
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