Homelessness: Tony’s story

Page 15 homeless Tony

Somewhere in Dublin 4, on a quiet street populated by offices, you will find Tony (not his real name). Tony is homeless. Originally from Sligo, personal difficulties saw him “opting out of life” as he put it, not an appropriate turn of phrase for his current situation, for although he remains homeless, he is a valuable part of the life of the area, as he helps save workers and visitors to local businesses time and money.

After getting beaten up by another homeless man, he decided to find somewhere quiet and safe to spend his time. He happened on the street he currently inhabits and had a good feeling. “I was wandering around for a while, mainly on the northside and I didn’t feel safe anywhere,” Tony told NewsFour. “When I sat down to tap (beg) here, someone from an office came over with a coffee in a mug; had a smoke with me and all!”

Tony started regularly frequenting the street and soon became a familiar face. NewsFour first heard about him through someone who works there and told us about the unique service that Tony provides. We asked the man himself about it. “It started when a chap who was always decent to me asked me to feed the parking meter for him. He gave me his keys and a score (€20) in change and told me I could keep what was left over. I thought he was mental, giving me the keys to his car and all, but being trusted made me not want to mess it up.”

He went on to tell us how this grew into him feeding the meters for most of the people who regularly park there, although he doesn’t take keys anymore, as he was afraid of repercussions that might arise. “Under the wiper does grand, and sure when the clampers see me they hardly even bother looking at the cars on the street,” he told us.

He has also expanded his enterprise to encompass the Dublin Bike Scheme. “A good few bods use them, but the station for them is a good walk away. Now they can get right to the door of their office and leave the bike with me. I run it straight around, and when it’s raining I could be back and forth a good bit,” he said.

All this trust might be surprising, but when you meet him you find a gentle man that you just get a good feeling from. He is witty and articulate, and has a positive attitude that transcends his circumstances.

We visited a local office and asked about their impressions of Tony. Eimear, a solicitor in a firm of accountants on the street, told us, “We all think he’s great. He always makes me smile and can see when I’m having a bad day; then he’ll slag me about it. I don’t want to sound patronising to him, but seeing how he keeps smiling through everything is head changing when you’re wound up with petty work stuff.

By Steve Kingston