Had a strange thought the other day. Got off the tram in the center of Dublin at about 7.30am and spotted a duvet in a doorway. On closer inspection I saw that it was not one homeless person, but two. And from the shape of the bodies and legs that were sticking out I could tell that it was two guys. How embarrassing. Sharing a bed with another man is one thing – but doing it in the middle of a city of 1.5m people? Imagine later that day sitting in a popular Dublin coffee shop and seeing people leaning over and whispering in each others ears ‘hey that’s the guys who share a duvet outside Benetton’.
Ok, so it’s probably the least of their worries.
It’s amazing how blasé and flippant we get when it comes to social problems like homelessness. It surrounds us so much that we get very desensitised by it all. If our only experience of a homeless person was a bearded, middle-aged drunk once or twice a month, then we might actually have a bit more sympathy for his plight. How did he get here? Where did it all go wrong? I mean, he wasn’t born in the street (well, it’s unlikely) and he had to have family somewhere.
But it’s the teenagers who sit on the street day after day which offer the most poignant, thought-provoking moments. Many of them get through life by smoking or drinking or using drugs. Of course this lifestyle is funded by begging and stealing which is what turns people off the homeless anyway.
I remember meeting a friend of my brothers about ten years ago now. Apparently his family were loaded but he didn’t get on with his dad and either left, or got kicked out of, the house. Now he slept rough and was probably only ever sixty seconds away from making one life-changing decision, using drugs or drinking or whatever. I often wondered what became of him but I don’t think my brother knows. And that’s what happens. The homeless disappear and don’t even become a statistic. It’s not like there’s a register for these things, like these people get votes or whatever.
And when I sit in my beautiful new home I often take for granted what I have. I moan a bit about the fact that some of the paintwork didn’t come out how I would have liked or there’s a mark in my thousand Euro floor that’s pissed me off. Well maybe I should think about the road warriors who only ever find cold, wet concrete under their feet and perhaps a doorway to shelter them – if they’re lucky.
But really these are just words. What am I doing to be part of the solution? Is it my job? Well it seems that it’s nobody’s job – and that’s the problem. Meanwhile I can touch up the floor or the ceiling and then find something new to moan about.