I met a lovely man on my way to work this morning; Cameron. The phrase that sticks out from our conversation is "It's a shit life": Cameron is homeless, but even so, was full of chat and that statement was all he would say about it; everything else was about the day itself.
Saturday night myself and my brother were walking around the city - on St patricks bridge we encountered 2 homeless men, one of whom was doing a big of a dance up to people to get money for him and his friend. He danced up to us and said "I'm sorry lads, I know I'm being a bit cheeky, but I have to be these days", and what he said resonated deeply: The increase in the volume of homelessness means begging has turned into a competition... what's that age old saying? "The richer get richer while the poor get poorer"... or 'the rich get meaner while the poor are forced to become more enterprising'. On the opposite side of the bridge was another homeless man (making 3 on the one bridge at 9.30pm) who was taking nothing in... not entertaining enough next to the other two. On we walked towards Emmett place and saw a mother and her child being given €20 in two tens by a passing man. The woman wouldn't take it, insisting it wasn't fair and she would only take €10; pride kicked in, which was heartbreaking to see.
A few weeks back my friend and I were heading out for a dance and my friend stopped to speak to a woman sitting outside Londis on Bridge Street - she was full of the joys and we chatted about all sorts. I found out afterward that my friend had been without his wallet drunk in town one night, and she, seeing him in this way, insisted on giving him €5 to get a taxi home... she had no money, and gave him all she had to get home safely. So now he stops every time he sees her and has developed quite a good relationship with her: She lost her son to suicide 21 years ago, turned to drink and subsequently lost everything.
For the last elections a local TD (and boy do I wish I could remember which one now) wrote an article in the Echo complaining about his posters being stolen. That same day I was walking across the bridge by the Clarion and in the alcove just off the bridge were those posters - they were being used as tents/shelter by homeless people. If I had a camera with me I would have sent pictures into that politician to make him shut up about a few missing election posters.
I'm not perfect, far from it, but I do what I can the same as everyone else I know, but it's not just about tossing a few coins at people (though that helps), they are exactly like you and me, but they fell down along the way, so sometimes a chat and a cup of coffee/cigarette is better. It's hard to write this without sounding somewhat self righteous and morally superior, and I'm really not, I am as guilty as anyone of putting my head down and refusing to see what is in front of me. Everyone is going on and on about the recession, but really we have absolutely no idea what it is like. It is coming up to Christmas, and people are more charitable at Christmas which is great, but it's not enough. I cannot judge people, but I ask that maybe as well as doing what you do to help, stop for a chat, feel your heart break after that conversation, and then say it to someone else to stop and do the same. Maybe, just maybe we'll start something bigger than what we are already doing and heighten awareness with those doing nothing.
They are the same as you and me, they've just had some rotten luck.