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Conor – Life on the Streets


I first met Conor outside Centra in Rathmines in late October.  He was sitting under his sleeping bag with a beige blanket wrapped around him; his light blue eyes were fixated on his book.  His face was pale and his wavy red hair looked unwashed.  His body looked thin and undernourished.  My sister Jenny had befriended him a few days before and had been keeping in touch with him.  She had given him money for a tourist hostel nearby in Camden Street for a few nights.  She had filled me in on his situation.  His mother is an alcoholic and she went into treatment for it.  They couldn’t afford to pay the rent so they lost their house.  He is originally from Carlow and he had stayed with friends from there initially, but he decided to move to Dublin to try and get a job.  When he first arrived in Dublin back in May, he had some work doing menial jobs, but unfortunately he was not kept on in them.  This resulted in him been on the streets.  I bent down to him and asked him how he was.  He replied ‘okay thanks’, ‘how are you’?  I was immediately touched by how considerate he was.  Most people in his situation would be totally consumed in how they were feeling and not think of asking the other person how they were.  ‘I am well thanks’ I cordially replied.

I introduced myself as Jenny’s sister, and told him I would like to help him.  I asked if it would be okay to write an article about him for the newspaper I work for.  He nodded and a small smile spread across his ashen face. A young woman in her mid-twenties approached us and said to Conor she hadn’t seen him recently and was wondering how he was.  He said he was doing better thanks.  She asked if there was anything she could do for him.  He said he was fine at the moment.  She told him to take care and walked off.  It was good to see that people do stop and care about homeless people.  I definitely think people are aware of this escalating problem in Ireland.

It does make me feel angry at our government for not doing more about it.  Here is this innocent, vulnerable teenager living on the streets because there are no services in place to help him.  He said he wasn’t on social welfare as he had to go to Parkgate Hall and register with them that he was homeless.  Then he would be put on Social Welfare.  He said he wished he had gone into care as he didn’t think it would be this hard to get a job.  After a few months of begging on the streets, he went to social services and asked if he could go into care.  However the lady working there harshly told him that he was nearly 18 and he should have gone into care when he had the chance. I couldn’t fathom how a social worker who is supposed to care about young people could be so cruel to this kid?

I enquired if he had any money for accommodation for the next few nights and he replied ‘no’ but hopefully he would make some by begging.  I discreetly handed him some money and told him I didn’t want him to be on the streets for Halloween as it could be dangerous sometimes.  Tears filled his eyes and he slowly blinked them back before saying ‘thank you for being so kind to me’.  Then he stood up to his full six foot and embraced me warmly.  I said we would be in touch, Jen and I had his phone number.  He thanked us again, gathered his belongings and headed back to the hostel.


After meeting Conor I couldn’t stop thinking about him.  Jenny and I vowed to do more to help him. The following day after work Jenny and I met Conor and asked him if he would like to join us in Starbucks.  He came with us and Jen took out her laptop and put an ad on Gumtree for him.  He said he had done some cleaning work and also worked on a building site, so we included this in the ad.  The next day he phoned Jen and excitedly told her he had been offered a job working on a building site.  He is currently waiting to hear from them about his start date.  A friend of ours has given us clothes for him, so he will have nice, clean clothes for his new job. He is a changed man; there is a glint of hope in his once sad eyes.  He has thanked both Jenny and I profusely saying we are ‘angels’ who were sent to help him.  But in truth it has been an absolute pleasure getting to know Conor.  It is so refreshing to see that he hasn’t let these last few months of hardship affect his sweet, trusting nature.

He said one of the worst things about being homeless, apart from not having enough food or shelter is the sheer loneliness.  He said you feel as though nobody cares about you and you are beneath everyone.  He said he doesn’t blame his mum for his situation, she has an illness and he is glad she is getting the help she needs.  He hasn’t told her he is homeless.  She thinks he has gone into care. He said she has been through enough and has another nine months of treatment left. He told us his mum has been both a mum and dad to him.  His dad left when he was two, so he doesn’t remember him.  I believe she has tried to be a good mum to him despite her addiction, because he is polite, affectionate, and very respectful of others.

I urge people to open their eyes and their hearts to the suffering around us.  It is the Governments responsibility to solve this homeless crisis, but I personally think they are consistently and conveniently turning a blind eye to it.  So unfortunately I think it is up to us as a nation to help our fellowman.  Conor said human contact is so important to make him feel worthy.  People engaging in conversation with him really helped to bridge the gap between him and them.

Conor had stayed in homeless shelters but he said it was a deeply unpleasant experience.  The place was rampant with drugs and alcohol and people were aggressive there.  Conor was always sober when I met him, and he had no signs of using alcohol or drugs. I think he is aware of the dangers of substance abuse because of his mum’s alcoholism.

I know there is a lot of prejudice against homeless people and there is still a stigma that they are all alcoholics and drug addicts.    I know that in some cases this is true, but in many it is also untrue. If you were subjected to having to live on the streets wouldn’t you want something to numb that harrowing experience like a drug or a drink?  I’m not advocating addiction by any matter of means, but I’m just saying that I understand why people would want to escape from their morose reality.   It is the case of what came first the chicken or the egg?  Some people certainly become homeless due to addiction, but others have lost their homes due to becoming unemployed, abusive relationships etc.  We can’t tarnish everyone with the same label.  Everyone deserves the right to their basic needs, food, shelter, warmth, clothes and most importantly love.


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