Reader’s View: Homeless Dublin

By Michael Behan

It’s hard to believe that, in this day and age, over 10,000 people are homeless in Ireland, with a concentration in Dublin, and a third of which are children. Most homeless families are invisible as they struggle to live their normal lives but one only has to take a stroll through Dublin City Centre, particularly at night, to witness how bad this epidemic is.

It begs the question “What are we doing to correct it?” For the people we see in clear sight, many will make stereotypical assumptions “Ah they’re hooked on drugs or alcohol” or “they had their chance.” But we don’t know these individuals or how they came to arrive at this stage of their lives.

Apart from the 10,000 plus homeless, there are 17,000 on a housing waiting list for homes from Dublin City Council and this figure has risen sharply over the years and the government don’t seem to be coming up with solutions.

For a small country like Ireland which has come through bail-outs, arguably successfully, and is one of the best performing countries in Europe, we still cannot get things right when it comes to housing people, which is a fundamental provision in our constitution. 

As I contemplated the above, I decided to see for myself what is going on in the city and my first stop was to pay my respects to Jonathon Corrie, who died as a homeless 43-year old man at the front door of Dáil Eireann in 2014 around Christmas time. I remember this tragic event vividly as it was expected to ‘kick-start’ change, yet things have only gotten worse.

Jonathon, originally from Kilkenny, had lived in the US and returned to Ireland in search of treatment to help him with his addiction and start a new life. His partner Catherine said it didn’t turn out the way he had planned and hoped for. His daughter felt the State let her dad down.

The inquest stated the Mr Corrie’s death was drug-related. Surely education and intervention could have prevented this very sad end and as I left the doorway where Jonathon died, saddened, I continued on my walk wondering how many more people have succumbed to a life on the streets for whatever reason.

I walked down Dawson Street and crossed the road at College Green and realized that only a week ago a young 30-year old homeless man died in very similar circumstances. Again, I thought to myself that surely these two events could have been avoided and with State intervention and education I’m certain they could have been.

My belief was confirmed as I arrived at the GPO and sat beside a young 22-year old woman named Mary. As she was wrapping up for the night, I quickly grabbed two coffees from McDonalds. She explained she came from a dysfunctional home and had no choice but to leave, following arguments and the like. She’s on the housing list for a flat but was told her wait will be 10 years.

As I tried to explain to her about the availability of hostels, she stopped me in my tracks. She had been in a few of them but had to leave due to drug use and violence. She felt this was a better option to stay clean. I wonder how many more men and women start this way and get dragged in. As I leaned against the cold granite wall of the GPO thanking God I have a roof over my head, I’m sure I heard a faint voice filter through the cracks “I gave my life for equality and a better Ireland for all men and women and this is how it turned out.”

I’m sure it was Padraig Pearse. I hope Mary’s ok