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Ireland 2019: A Crisis

Credit - Marie Tonra

“Homelessness is a sense of hopelessness, a loss of independence and bitter loneliness. You are not invisible, but rather not worth looking at”

Rachel Moran

Many use the word “homeless” without ever being able to truly understand what it means. “Homelessness” seems to portray the condition as a single entity, but it is many individual deficiencies combined. The worst of them are emotional, but to mention the physical challenges first; the most significant of them being exhaustion. This is the result of many different factors including hunger, sleep deprivation and a constant need to remain on the move.

Rachel Moran – Paid For

John remembers when he first became homeless.

“I had exhausted all of my chances. I was in the depths of addiction as I tried desperately to escape my inner demons. This pain had become shared, tearing through my family. They could no longer take the lies and deceit”

Evidence of Drug Use In Dublin City Centre
Photo Credit – Marie Tonra

John speaks with a sense of detachment, as if he is not the lonely protagonist in the story he knows too well. 

“The first shock was the unwavering need to move constantly. I felt unsafe at all times. I wore my vulnerability on my body. It was evident in my clothing; shabby and unwashed. It was evident in the sleeping bag draped across my shoulders. I had quickly become a stereotype, a statistic” 

In the city of Dublin, the streets tell the story of a crisis. It is evident with the turn of every corner; sleeping bags lay drenched and abandoned, no longer offering a dry place for someone to sleep. Cardboard lies in many doorways, a marker left behind, once separating the crippling cold of a cement ground from the body of a human. The defeated shape of a hooded figure sits hunched over outside shop doors, a cup placed carefully at their feet. “Spare change please” – a sentence you will hear at least four times as you walk from O’Connell street to Grafton. 

A Homeless Man Amongst Shoppers – Marie Tonra

“I quickly experienced the most crippling loneliness imaginable. I walked through a city full of faces everyday and I still felt alone. I had become an outsider, a social issue, a ghost. I had to carry my body, the unwanted intrusion, everywhere I went”.

The most recent statistics have unveiled an horrific truth. 10,305 people are currently homeless. This figure includes both adults and children. We have seen an increase of 268%  since 2015 – which doesn’t make for happy reading. In April 2019, The official rough sleepers count confirmed 128 people sleeping rough on the streets of Dublin. A rough sleeper is defined as someone who is ‘bedding down’ in the open air. This is the most visible form of homelessness and perhaps the most crippling as people cannot escape the elements in comparison to those living in hostels and family hubs

“I was sleeping rough for a year. People often say, there is no excuse for anyone sleeping on the streets due to the opening of all of the new services. I felt safer on the streets than in the hostels. They are very difficult. The streets became a sort of uncomfortable comfort zone. I wasn’t trapped in a room with 6 others, If I felt threatened I could move”. 

John found solace in a drop in centre situated in North Dublin. It was here he could shower, eat and link in with the necessary supports to help with his horrendous circumstance. Desperate to change, he realised his only option was to go into detox. 

“My Key worker got me into detox centre. When I finished there, I was able to stay with friends and go from couch to couch. I was now part of the “Hidden homeless”. I refused to go into a hostel as I would certainly have relapsed. Drug use in there is so prevalent. Rooms have a bin for dirty syringes – almost as nonchalant as an ashtray-however; harbouring the evidence of a far more serious addiction” 

“ I suffered with depression for years due to my upbringing. It wasn’t until my doctor prescribed me Benzodiazepines that I realised, there was an escape from the consistent sense of panic and dread” 

“It felt fine, because the tablets came from a prescription pad – it was socially acceptable. I began to over medicate, One became two, three, four. Before I knew it I was taking up to 15 Benzo’s a day and my doctor would no longer prescribe me with the drug. I turned to the streets for my fix and from there i discovered heroin”.  

The root cause of the homeless crisis in Ireland is without a doubt the broken housing system. Ireland does not have a public housing system to meet the needs of society. Almost 1 in 5 households now live in a privately rented home compared to 1 in 10 only ten years ago. This has led to an enormous pressure on the private rental market which has resulted in constantly rising rent levels and a lack of properties to rent. 

The other cause is not as visible and could fall under the heading of a ‘Hidden epidemic”. Much like Johns situation, prescription addiction has began to spiral through communities. 

“Addiction is definitely a contributing factor to the crisis we have at present. As a country, we are failing our people in many ways when it comes to supports, services and suitable and affordable housing. It’s ironic, as I walk through Dublin now, I see cranes everywhere; building a city that is booming once again. In the same city, we have buildings that are boarded up and unoccupied. It’s horrific”. 

Photo Credit – Marie Tonra

John smiles. He  changes the narrative and begins to describe life as a family man, in recovery for over 2 years now. He speaks with warmth. This is the man he associates with most. 

Simon Community Based On Camden Street

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