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COMMENT: ‘Professionals are queuing for food and sleeping rough’

Monday, 3rd December, 2018 7:59am
COMMENT: ‘Professionals  are queuing for food and sleeping rough’

Feed Our Homeless volunteers pictured at their College Green soup run, which operates three nights a week.

COMMENT: ‘Professionals  are queuing for food and sleeping rough’

Feed Our Homeless volunteers pictured at their College Green soup run, which operates three nights a week.

TONY Walsh can certainly offer personal insight into the city’s homelessness crisis.

He’s been there himself. For 18 years, he slept rough on the streets and was in and out of emergency accommodation. More than most, he understands the daily struggles homeless people face and the dark places it can bring them.

Through education, Tony eventually managed to break the cycle of homelessness, achieving a diploma and degree in addiction studies. These days, he dedicates his life to helping those who, for a variety of reasons, find themselves without a place to call home.

He believes homelessness and drug addiction can be prevented in the early stages of life. This, he says, can be achieved by educating and encouraging young people to stay in school and get involved in sports, youth programmes or other activities within their communities.

Tony is founder of the Feed Our Homeless charity, which provides soup runs and outreach services in the capital. Thanks to the generosity of food outlets and donations from the public, the soup run operates three nights a week at College Green (Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, 7pm-10.30pm).

When it began in 2017, their volunteers typically catered for 100 people on any given night. This winter, that figure has ballooned to around 400, with long queues snaking around the corner as soon as they set up.

The profile of those who are homeless has changed radically, according to Tony. Yes, there are those who have fallen through the cracks of society due to addiction issues or family disputes. These days, however, there are parents with young children in buggies queuing for food. 

It’s not unusual to find professional people there. Tony has come across many of them sleeping in doorways after a day’s work; victims of a dysfunctional rental market that has spiralled out of control.

“Professional people are the new homeless,” he sadly notes.

Many of them opt to sleep rough for fear of being robbed or attacked by addicts or drunks in emergency hostels. There is an urgent need for more ‘dry’ and ‘clean’ emergency accommodation. The Government’s response to the homelessness crisis has simply not been able to keep pace with the growing scale of the problem.

Charities like Tony’s are doing their best to help, offering essential frontline services to those most in need. But it’s a sticking plaster approach that will ultimately require a State-backed solution if we are to prevent future generations from falling into homelessness.

• Feed Our Homeless is currently seeking support for their shoebox appeal. For details of drop-off points, visit www.feedourhomeless.ie. Their freephone number for emergency beds after 10.30pm is 1800 707 707.

Read the digital editions of the Dublin People Northside East, Northside West & Southside here