More Than Just A Statistic

After the death of another man living without shelter on the streets of Ireland, Dion Davis asks when the Irish Government and the people of Ireland will begin to take notice.

The man is as cold as the stone he lies on. The sleeping bag enveloping him provides no warmth in these harsh conditions. And yet, it is only autumn? If there are people dying now, the figures will only double in the winter. This man is a regular sight; passers-by do not take any heed to the crumpled figure on Dawson Street in Dublin.

The harrowing truth surrounding this story is not that the government has failed to act on homelessness again, or that there are plenty more like him; it is the man behind the statistic. He is not a number. But in Ireland this is what he is going to be treated as. The statistics are shocking, but this man has a name and a life behind him. He will be yesterday’s news as the next victim of homelessness is unveiled.

Homelessness is not just a crisis anymore; it is a national emergency. 70 families a month lose their homes. At present there are 1,300 children homeless. In August 2015 Ireland set a new record with 83 families becoming homeless. These numbers grow each year, and we can only ask when will the government and the general public realise that this is not going away?

Jonathan Corrie is another victim of homelessness, found last year dead on the pavement adjacent to Leinster House. Government Ministers cannot ignore the problem when it is so close to their workplace, but what is being done? Nothing. There are talks of introducing prefabs to cater for the homeless (I use the word “talks” because there is still nothing set in stone, nor will there be until the electioneering battles commence). The Government could introduce a myriad of initiatives to ease the pressure on these families including increasing rent supplement, ensuring rent certainty, or encouraging landlords to rent out their properties – however this is far and between what will actually happen.

RTÉ, in conjunction with various homeless charities including Dublin Simon Community, Saint Vincent De Paul and Focus Ireland, launched a programme on television last year called ‘The High Hopes Choir’. I can honestly say it was one of the most devastating yet heart-warming pieces of television I have watched. But the majority of the population did not know it was on. The High Hopes choir performed on The Late Late, at the GPO in Dublin, and in concerts over the Summer including Electric Picnic. It has only gone from strength to strength and shows no signs of stopping. If a charity group can come up with a successful initiative to include homeless people in society and give them hopes for a better life, then why can’t we all do the same thing?

If you’re free this October and November there are plenty of ways to help the homeless, including Shine a Light which is Focus Ireland’s flagship corporate event, raising over €675,00 since it’s launch over two years ago. This involves sleeping rough on Friday the 16th of October to shine a light on homelessness. In Cork it will take place at the historic City Gaol.

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