Interview: The other side
Posted on March 28, 2019
Robert writes about meeting Jane* and how it opened his eyes to what he assumed was the conventional homeless person, bringing home the notion that actually, homelessness can affect anybody.
An element of the homeless crisis in Ireland is the broken housing system. In the last decade, the lack of social housing provision combined with private house building grinding to half has meant more people than ever are renting their homes. Almost 1 in 5 households now live in a privately rented home compared to 1 in 10 ten years ago.
Homelessness in Ireland has been on the rise for a number of years due to many different and complex reasons from increases in rent, to suppressed wages. The reasons for homelessness is multifaceted, so too are the experiences of those who find themselves homeless. I got to sit down with Jane* about her experiences when she found herself homeless.
Becoming homeless was a lot simpler than Jane realised. Jane’s own home life was tense; having had a child at 19 Jane moved out with her then boyfriend things didn’t work out within that relationship so I moved back home. Jane’s and her mother did not get along and before Jane knew it she and her mother were constantly at each other. One day Jane found herself kicked out and on the streets. Sadly Jane’s situation is not unique, I watched a guy with a good job iron his clothes for work and then come back to the shelter at night.
Homeless was a different way of life.
On Jane’s first day of being homeless, Jane found herself just wondering around Dublin city aimlessly, unsure what it was she was supposed to do. Jane called a number to find out if she would be given accommodation for the night. Jane found herself in a homeless shelter for the night, talking to some of the other people; we talked about getting shelter for the night. Jane quickly found out that the world of homelessness has its own vernacular. One of Jane’s most memorable words was ‘fiftied’.
Did you get fiftied?
When you ring up looking for a shelter to sleep in there are only so many spots available. After the fiftieth caller, it’s more than likely you’ll find yourself on the streets for the night. Luckily for Jane, a person at the end of the phone picked up and she had shelter for the night. “My first night at the shelter was surreal, a person had overdosed in the bathrooms. It is something I’m not comfortable talking about, people are afraid that they will lose funding because of a lack of oversight. Going into the bathroom was safe. Oversight is not the problem; there is honestly only so much you can do to prevent these things from happening”.
There was a sense of community among the homeless that there isn’t among those who have a “normal” way of life. “You walk the streets almost as a ghost, people ignore you, and they try not to look at you”. Within the shelter it is different Jane couldn’t find a moment to be alone, wanting to sit in a corner and cry was not an option there was always someone there and in one sense it was nice and in another sense “you need to cry”. a lot easier than you would realise.
Jane found living in a new home was a strange feeling. “It is easy to see why those who find themselves homeless have difficulties acclimating back to living in a house; it can be scary and extremely lonely”.
According to Focus Ireland, the number of homeless families has increased by 83% since January 2016. However, this number does not include ‘hidden homelessness’ which refers to people who are living in squats or ‘sofa surfing’ with friends.
Ireland does not have a public housing system to meet the needs of society