“If we don’t help, we are going to lose people to suicide.” These were the words Esther spoke when asked about her motivation for volunteering to help Dublin’s rapidly increasing homeless population. Every Friday night, she volunteers on behalf of ‘People In Need’ (P.I.N) by giving out food and clothing to homeless people outside the GPO. I wanted to speak to a just a few of the homeless community gathered there, to get a deeper insight into their issues.
P.I.N are a homeless charity made up of volunteers from all over Ireland, with many people from South Armagh and County Down. In their own words they are “a new community group to help the needs of others. P.I.N hope to provide help to the local community, both people in need and the homeless.”
Esther is an elderly woman who routinely goes over and beyond the call of duty. For over 20 years, she has cared for the homeless, even going so far as to offer a place in her own home for some of the people she encounters. As a result of her immense compassion and charity, she has been affectionately dubbed ‘Mother Teresa’ by her fellow volunteers. In her view, “sadly, the government aren’t doing enough. The homeless have no hope, and things are actually getting worse. It’s just getting out of control. Everybody deserves a roof over their head.”
Trevor, a young homeless man, told me, “I understand that some people don’t help themselves with drug problems, but I want help. I’m not getting help. I can’t do it anymore, I really can’t.” He looks out across O’Connell Street saying “that Spire right there in front of you, cost millions of euros to make. Put it towards homeless people, feed them, help them.” He says he once struggled with a drug problem, an ever growing concern on the streets of Dublin. In a disheartened tone he tells me, “I’ve been to care homes, young offenders, been through the penal system. Bad circumstances and a bad upbringing, but I’m not a bad person. I just need somewhere to rest my head at night.”
A Latvian man also spoke to me about how it was impossible for him to attain a PPS number, a necessity for any job. He’s been in Ireland for 18 months, but does not have any form of identification because he was robbed. He said neither the Irish nor Latvian governmental authorities would help him get a PPS number. This is a source of great frustration and pain for him. “I’ve been in the Garda station and have explained everything, and my embassy will not help me.”
He said that he feels much safer on the streets than in a hostel, which he says is full of bullying and drugs. I heard the same thing from a lot of people I spoke to. He reveals that he is “lying all the time to my family, as I haven’t explained to them that I am homeless.” Despite all this, he feels hopeful that his fortunes will turn around. “Irish people are very friendly. I really, really respect the Irish people. They try to help everybody, it doesn’t matter where you are from; Russia, Latvia, Estonia. I appreciate what people like (P.I.N) are doing for the homeless. They try their best to help and make sure you don’t go hungry.”
It’s difficult to remain as hopeful as he is when you are outside the historic GPO, confronted by scores of homeless people who are so happy at the prospect of a meal and the hope of an item of clothing.
One person told me about the shame he feels at his current situation. Whilst eating the food provided by P.I.N, he said, “the food is wonderful, but this isn’t me. In my home country, my mother makes me this food in my nice home. Here, I am handed it on the streets. I’m sorry, but this isn’t me.”
It shouldn’t be anyone, but in Ireland, it is a cruel fate that is befalling more and more people.
(For more information on People In Need and how you can help, you can find them on Facebook; https://facebook.com/PINPEOPLEINNEED/ )
This article was written by a SpunOut.ie volunteer. Check out our volunteering opportunities here and get in touch if you’re interested in getting involved.