by Fr. Brian D’Arcy
“TODAY I spoke to no-one – and nobody spoke to me. Am I dead?”
That powerful short poem comes from a collection by Anthony Gill, a poet who was homeless and who is buried in a plot for the homeless in Glasnevin cemetery. Anthony Gill was just one of many homeless people who have been cared for by Trust – a befriending social service for people who are homeless, established in 1975.
Their co-founder Alice Leahy was one of the speakers at the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin. She was a good choice; I was surprised that her talk didn’t get greater coverage. Her words were challenging and went to the heart of what the Eucharist is, namely that we are all equal in the eyes of God.
As part of her talk Alice Leahy talked about the people they meet in their Trust premises in Bride Road, Dublin.
“The people we meet are perceived by the wider society as being different and difficult and indeed many are,” she wrote.
omelessness is often a symptom of a more deep-seated complex set of problems. The homeless are, “without a place to lay their
head, and therefore suffer the effects of isolation and health problems as a result of their chaotic lifestyle.”
The homeless are human beings whose vulnerability has led them on a different path. Trust deals with people from all over Ireland and now from all over the world, particularly Eastern Europe.
“Some people we meet cope with very serious addiction problems, including gambling, drugs, alcohol – all seen just as statistics in our increasingly bureaucratic world.
“Many people we meet struggle to create a sense of normality after years locked away in institutions and others who have been re-located from one institution to another.
“Some people remain locked in prisons they have created for themselves, often out of frustration at not being understood.
“Many people we know have attempted suicide, and many have died on the streets.”
According to Alice Leahy these are people Trust deal with on a daily basis. Each day they meet up to fifty women and men who sleep rough on the streets of Dublin. The more vulnerable inspire those who care for them to look at their own lives and the way they live.
Alice gave a simple example to those who were present at the Eucharistic Congress. “I am reminded of Joe who one day with tears in his eyes told me that when attending morning Mass in an inner city church the woman beside him refused to shake his hand at the
‘sign of peace’. Yes, he had the weather-beaten cigarette stain of poverty.”
Homelessness is not just about not having a home it is also about not fitting in and not buying into society’s values. Think about it. If one hasn’t a place to call home it is difficult to be at peace with yourself. A homeless person is immediately suspect. They have no privacy and are frequently regarded as nothing more than statistics.
Trust provides nursing care, hospitality, showering and washing facilities, advice and friendship on a daily basis. They give out approximately 500 outfits of clothing a month, all donated. They buy underwear and socks.This is part of Trust’s holistic approach to
health care and an effort to restore a sense of self-worth to the person. It’s a reminder to me not to dismiss real people with convenient language. It’s a homeless person, not a wino or a dosser; it’s a person not a condition.