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category dublin | housing | feature author Friday April 11, 2008 16:36author by Pip, Damo, Ger, Foxey, Jot Report this post to the editors

Tackling homelessness: A view from the inner city

featured image
Don't ignore the Homeless

For us it is important to discuss homelessness because it is not just something that we pass by on the streets guiltily ignoring people or handing out a few pence depending on our humour.

It is definitely not something we just read about in reports or newspapers - it is a problem that we have or could experience in the future. Everyone in the media talks about the Celtic Tiger but we don’t see it in our areas and we see more people on the streets rather than less and we want to know why.

The following article was written by an Adult Education discussion and research group based in the north inner city. It was a collective effort by Ger, John, Pip, Jonathan Wheelock and Damian.

Homelessness is a terrible situation we have on our streets today. It is an issue all the people have to help to eliminate. There are approximately 5,000 homeless people according to the Jesuit Peter McVerry who provides accommodation and care programmes for homeless young people. When you walk around Dublin you see homeless people in every doorway, up every alleyway- anywhere for a bit of warmth and shelter. Every time you see them they look worse probably because they are taking drugs or alcohol to survive. Also, an awful lot of people die on the streets each year of all ages. You never hear of those people in the media they die and they are forgotten. It is like they never existed and have no identities. A recent report issued by the Simon community noted that 55 people died in its care in 2006 (25 in Cork, 18 in Dublin, 4 in Dundalk and 8 in Galway). The average age of those who died was 42 -under half the average life expectancy of an Irish person. It is time we addressed this problem head on before more people die.

People end up on the streets for all sorts of reasons. You just have to look around you to understand some of them. Around Dublin and the complexes that are dotted around the city centre there are lot of young people who hang around drinking and smoking some hash and other substances. These youngsters are between 12 and 15 years of age and don’t really understand the effect of what they are doing to themselves. Soon enough things get out of line and before they can get out of the things they do it is too late. When you think people don’t care about you start not to care about them. Some do get the help they need but a lot just fall by the wayside. Some of these girls and boys end up homeless and they have to look for a bed for the night. If you are not one of the lucky ones anddon’t get a bed its means you have to sleep on the streets in some doorway or run down shed or squat.

We know what this feels like as some of us have had this experience. One of us got thrown out of our mother’s house for drugtaking. ‘Sean’ takes up the story “My mother had had enough. I still remember that night-it was cold, very cold. I was walking out the driveway and I just kept thinking ‘where am I going to go?’ I could walk the streets but you can only do that for a few hours and then you need somewhere to try and get your head down. So you take drugs to block out the cold and when the drugs run out you start feeling depressed and you think no-one wants you or anything to do with you. You feel lonely and unwanted and start to take more drugs to block everything out, to block out the cold. It is not a nice experience. Lucky for me I did get a bed back in my ma’s a couple of nights later but a lot people don’t get a chance”.

For the people who are on the streets for a considerable amount of time, for the unlucky ones, it is hard to get paid by the dole and it takes longer to get a flat off the council. Some end up committing crimes or worse. Some people end up on the game and they even get their friends to help out. It seems like easy money but it fucks up their lives.

There are people of all ages on the streets and even whole families and most people in society with their big houses and big bank accounts don’t give a damn. The government should be eliminating the problem instead of wasting money on senseless things like the Spire and useless street art. Even though there 57 organisations and 800 people employed to tackle homelessness, consultative fora established in local areas to discuss the issue, and a cross departmental team that reports to the cabinet as well as a large annual budget put aside to tackle homelessness (approximately 81 million euro in 2005) the problems continue. Despite all this colossal activity and substantial expenditures people remain homeless year after year. Our argument is not that the government are doing nothing but they are not doing enough. Surely building enough homes for all the people in such a wealthy society is possible? If we don’t more people will die.

author by Terencepublication date Thu Apr 10, 2008 13:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It would appear and the article seems to back this up that the problem of homelessness is not lack of home per se, but is a result of the fall out from social and mental problems.

It seems that many who find themselves homeless is as a result of family or personnel problems where either they can't get on and that this is often tied up with drink and drug problems or those already in the house are impossible to live with perhaps due to violent behaviour or whatever. Obviously these are the things that really need to be addressed and yet while the specifics of a given story may be relatively unique clearly there are common patterns and recurring problems across the board whether the problem is in Dublin, London or anywhere else.

I don't think it is quite enough to say people passing by homeless people on the street don't give a damn. Most people are quite well aware that there are no easy fixes to these people's lives and problems and that they are there as a result of various traumas in their lives. Handing them out generous amounts of money on the street will not solve anything. It is much more complex than that.

I would therefore like to see more discussion of how people become homeless and what people think are some of the solution and causes for this stage of the process. The rest is simply dealing with the symptoms.

author by Decpublication date Fri Apr 11, 2008 12:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Enjoyed reading this and really liked Sean's insight in how this happens.

author by Bronterre O'Brienpublication date Fri Apr 11, 2008 17:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The commodification of everything under neoliberal ideological hegemony means that the only value is value determined by the market.

'Welform reform' in the U.S. under Bill Clinton forced the poor and the powerless, many of them single women with children, to increasingly rely on the market for sustenance.

The result:
14, 000 homeless children in New York City.

To avoid similar catastrophes in Ireland proponents and practitioners of this pernicious neoliberal ideology need to be opposed and defeated.

author by dunkpublication date Fri Apr 11, 2008 20:55author email fuspey at yahoo dot co dot ukauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

above IMC-IE link does not work, 2 and a bit years ago there was a huge amount of momentum with the street seen network, a group of homeless and their supporters who tried to work at many angles to improve things, in the end some things fell to pieces, some people got housed, some people learned a lot about things and people, some action was taken to stop people dying on the streets

the below link was a previous IMC-IE feature, it was one of the final throws of the then dice: publicising the squatted occupation of the then derelict building in colaiste mhuire by homeless lads, the police getting locked in, an impromptu street rally and semi occupation of o'connoll st.

the sad thing about it is that the action was against "no more death on our streets", 3 hours before the cops came to evict the lads from their new home another lad died on merchants arch in temple bar and 3 days previous another lad died

i hope things lift a bit, since then there has been a huge increase in "activism", all the new faces at seomra spraoi, the growth of anarchist bookfairs etc.... but to what ends?

be great to see old street seen network connecting with the growing "activist" networ(s), using critical social spaces and community gardens.....

Keep Death Off Our Streets ... And The Guards On Their Toes

related to this:

"Raul, who worked with boal in brazil and has been in ireland for some time, participated in an early seomra spraoi event a long time back with us. that was the time of the "no more death on our streets" chants from street scene, he did a theatre of the opressed workshop with a group of about 20 people and it was very special, a few of the homeless lads participated... it was a start, but like so much never went much further, perhaps it will be talked about at this w/e's scoil spraoi...hope so"

its one approach which has been greatly effective in other countries in alleviating oppression, exploitation etc.... perhaps it might be explored more?

Augusto Boal : Radical Theatre innovator spoke to a packed house at the Abbey last Thursday

good luck from BCN, where also people die

no more death on our streets
none of our streets

no more death on our streets
no more death on our streets

author by Nordic Greenpublication date Sun Apr 13, 2008 06:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Press release:

Parliament adopts written declaration on ending street homelessness
Social policy - 10-04-2008

Parliament adopted a written declaration calling on the Council to agree on an EU-wide commitment to end street homelessness by 2015. The declaration calls on the Commission to develop a European framework definition of homelessness, gather comparable and reliable statistical data, and provide annual updates on action taken and progress made in EU Member States towards ending homelessness.

MEPs urge Member States to devise ‘winter emergency plans’ as part of a wider homelessness strategy in the written declaration initially put forward by Mary Lou McDonald, Jacek Protasiewicz, Claude Moraes, Gérard Onesta, Jean Marie Beaupuy and signed by 405 MEPs so far. In order for a written declaration to be adopted it must be signed by more than half of all MEPs (393 out of 785)

Parliament points out that homelessness was identified as a priority by the EPSCO Council in 2005, and is a priority under the 'active inclusion' strand of the EU social protection and inclusion strategy. MEPs says access to adequate housing is a fundamental human right and access to shelter often the first step towards adequate and sustainable housing solutions for people experiencing extreme poverty and exclusion.

Every winter people freeze to death across the EU because of lack of emergency accommodation and outreach services catering for their needs. Street homelessness, says the written declaration, is the most visible form of homelessness, which can only be addressed effectively as part of a wider holistic strategy.

author by Gerry Ricepublication date Sun Apr 13, 2008 14:36author email gerrice at btopenworld dot comauthor address 11 Newcastle Road, Ballynahinch, Co. Down. BT24 8NE.author phone 02897562773Report this post to the editors

People don't give a damn about the homeless and quite a few other serious situations as well.
Yes we applaud a government throwing money at the problem of homelessness just as we get a feel-good feeling ourselves by thowing a few coppers to a charity to 'help'.
Then what do we do? We vote in the same dysfunsional politicians who have got us, including the homeless, where we are. The buck, contrary to what a US President stated, does not stop with the head of a government, it stops with the people - us. We are the ones responsible for the homeless people who are our brothers and sisters simply because we are the ones responsible for choosing the government which fails to provide the proper shelter for the people they have been given the privilege and responsibility of providing for, with the peoples' money, and the more vulnerable the people are the greater the privilege and responsibility of the people who vote, or don't vote as the case may be.
I know from sad experience but then I am under the jurisdiction of Ireland's neighbour from hell in the North.
Thousands of people including my own family have purchased totally defectively houses here. These defective houses have made estate agents and solicitors rich beyond all belief because they are sold and resold so often. When I discovered the problem, my conscience would not allow me to sell my defective house to anyone. My long and ongoing battle with my local Council, with solicitors etc failed to get me justice. My defective home was taken off me instead. I was made bankrupt and given a criminal record for daring to challenge the gravy train that this housing fraud has become and nobody gives a damn. Our children have all left now but my wife and me, pensioners, still live, after 28 years, in an old mobile school classroom which over the years has been made comfortable with the help of the children. This well-known situation in Co. Down has not changed the voting habits of anyone. The same politicians responsible for this situation have been re-elected time and time again. Police officers even found evidence of criminal activity in our local Council and their bosses didn't lift a finger to help.
Only when people waken up from their prejudices, their comforts, their handy affordable lifestyles, open their eyes, see what is really going on around them and realise that they are the real power to effect changes in their society, then and only then will justice dictate that equality does not only belong to the well-heeled and comfortable but is also the right and property of each and every person lying up an alley or in a front porch or shop doorway, and those erstwhile onlookers should feel as guilty as hell for allowing it to happen.

Gerry Rice.

Related Link: http://www.gerryrice.com
author by Sarahpublication date Sun Apr 13, 2008 19:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The article is spot on -well done.

author by RobbingHoodpublication date Mon Apr 14, 2008 02:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

from your article figures

800 x 25000=20,000,000 (taking the average wage as a conservative 25k p.a.)
add on
81,000,000 (funding )

total: 100,000,000

this would buy 400 houses, housing 3 per house average = 1200 people with a roof over their heads

You could greatly reduce the problem by dumping the entire bureaucracy and just having maybe one voluntary office per x houses, merely interviewing and handing out keys and calling by once a day to see everything is ok.

next year, another 400 houses, another 1200 people housed

5 years and there's somewhere for everybody.

Hey, it might even help with the "housing slump"

Instead we give good jobs to people who already have qualifications, houses and lives. and leave the poor still on the street. Go figure

Sure, it's not QUITE that simple but you get my point all the same. Fact is, bureaucracy is stealing most of the money allocated to the poor in our country and diverting it to paper pushers who are well off.

author by Joe, Mick, Larpublication date Tue Apr 15, 2008 12:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

We agree with the article - the government are not building homes for the homeless or giving enough homes to the homeless. They don't care about the homeless and that's out straight unless there is a protest outside the Dail.
I also think that people get kicked out of home for lots of other reasons than selling or using drugs, having parties in the house (anti-social behaviour), such as bringing trouble to the door when there are kids in the house, stealing from their families to support drug habits, and violence in the house. Also it can be very hard for people to get their own accommodation especially if they have kids and are looking for the corporation to have accommodation available, so houses can be overcrowded and this can cause conflicts.

author by Zetpublication date Tue Apr 15, 2008 13:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The important point that was made in the article is that homelessness is not only a physical problem, that of not having a shelter, but also a psychological one. When you become homeless you become invisible to other people as if you were wearing an invisible hat. And it's more of a horror than a fairy tale. The feeling that people don't want to have anything to do with you is as damaging as the lack of warm bed at night. Thanks for pointing that out.

author by Rational Ecologistpublication date Thu Apr 17, 2008 12:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Homeless or being-out-of-home is a very complex problem and the solution is not merely more houses, though it would be a great help.
A huge proportion of those experiencing homelessness have been in the care of the state at some stage, and I am not referring to the mental health services, I am talking about young people in care. The outcomes have been disastrous for this group. Alcohol is also a huge factor and the abuse of it in the family home as well as prescription drugs, dispensed like sweets by some GPs.
The state has been an awful parent!!

author by haripublication date Fri Apr 18, 2008 08:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The article states "most people in society with their big houses and big bank accounts don’t give a damn." Correction, most people in society with their big houses and big bank accounts have worked hard to get where they are, and have not lived off others or off the state.
Sorry, but you got kicked out of home for taking drugs? And whose fault was that?
As somebody who was forced to evict a child due to drug-taking and violence in my home, I have very little sympathy for people who end up on the street. It's time people started to take responsibility for their own lives, rather than blaming politicians and everyone else.

author by Rational Ecologistpublication date Fri Apr 18, 2008 10:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I am sure your decision was a very tough one to make, however, not all homelessness happens under these circumstances. I'd rather that Ireland did not turn into the US. We have to care about people, especially when it is tough to do so. I can understand your anger and you did do the right thing,and yes people do have to take responsibility for their own decisions, however, a lot of people who experience homelessness come from very deprived and abusive families.

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