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Dublin Opinion
Life should be full of strangeness, like a rich painting

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BAGS - A Poem on Homelessness in Dublin.

category dublin | housing | other press author Sunday September 19, 2010 17:42author by Wayne Flanagan Tobin - Community Activist and Suicide Prevention Campaigner Report this post to the editors

A Poem on Homelessness in Dublin.

A smile which lights up the City,
A face that has a story,
Inside those plastic bags
Only she knows.

Buses, stations, streets, the airport
Destinations she illuminates,
A face, a smile, a story
Opening the hearts of those around her .

Waiting at Pearse Street station
Surrounded by her precious jewels,
First thing on a Sunday morning,
She drinks tea from her paper cup.

It could be anywhere you see,
A little head popping up
On a Luas near Abbey street,
Hunched-backed yet beautiful.

Saying hello to the little girl in Mcdonalds,
One wonders if she had children of her own?
Cleaning the table so carefully, so happily,
A lady of elegance Abandoned.

Unlost but lost,
Smiling at a selfish world,
She is my hero
Her name is Bags.


Editor: We don't normally allow postings to consist of just poems as this is not a poetry site but we will make an exception this time

author by Liz White O'Heihirpublication date Thu Apr 12, 2012 00:25Report this post to the editors

I knew the lady in question-she has now deceased. Lovely poem. RIP to her. Society failed her.

author by Francis - Homelessnesspublication date Sat Nov 02, 2013 16:34Report this post to the editors


The man outside Tescos has taken the spot from another man who has a problem with his leg, their story is 'stereotypically' the same and that is they are begging for money for their hostel preferably so that they can book a week in advance. To be sitting on a pavement as the weather changes for the realities of a hard winter makes their situation all the more unacceptable because you know their plight is that they fall between the cracks of the social model and because they have no utility bill, no fixed address, they have no social welfare. For some reason these people are displaced from their original homes, it might be divorce, drug addiction, alcoholism, disability, ill-health and in particular people with mental health problems but what it does tell you is that there are people in our society who need special involvement from Services and who do not receive them.

I walk up to next shop and B reminds me that I went in one door of Tescos the last day and came out the other and forgot about him. What probably happened is that I was on the mobile phone and just forgot about B. Earlier in the day another character came up to me and as usual asked for his Euro; when B noticed he admonished me and said why did I give to him because he had State benefits, a home and spent his day gambling in the bookies. This is the life of the Street. It's harsh, it's uncertain, it's cold. It is about asking for money because you have nowhere to sleep for the night and ad infinitum. The poem reflects the narrative so well and the truth is this hardship causes too many to die, too young, without an opportunity to know the difference. Ozzie was our local. When he died, we all realized that each had a little of his character to remember him by. He looked so much older than his years. He had attributes but society sidelined him to homelessness, begging and who knows what else.

Stereotypes, monologues of the elites who have no empathy, the homeless industry and charities, (those without the objective to eradicate homelessness because it becomes their bread and butter), those chief executives and their flock who earn well in excess of £150,000, the beneficial owners of the hostels who receive payment for the beds in the dormitories from the overly bureaucratic sectors of government and in particular the HSE. Pruning is essential and a fresh look is urgently needed to tackle the homelessness crisis and underclass emergence in the streets of our city Dublin and other cities on this Island.

The internet is like access to literacy which empowers the people. With ease, the majority of us can access what happens in other countries with the homeless crisis. We are told that the EU has the Invisible Hand and social is a strong contributor. We know social plays a considerably less significant part of the American belief system. Let's use the internet to take a look at San Francisco - Think Progress publication.

There is new survey about homelessness in the US (begging there refers to panhandlers) - downtown San Franciso. What is interesting is that it challenges the myths and the interesting part is that the myths there, resemble the same myths that apply here on the Island of Ireland. You might ask how or why? Well there seems to be a conventional wisdom 'that those on the sidewalk asking for a dollar are lazy freeloaders who will use the money for alcohol or drugs'. The danger is when the media are biased towards this view and use the airwaves to promote the myths. In the US, Fox media and a Mr John Stossel have become the mouthpiece for the perpetrators of the myths and he has broadcast certain messages which are heavily biased and harmful to "beggars". Stossel reports (we know only too well that so many of us use these very same stereotypes) messages such as "I had heard some people beg for a living and make big bucks - $80,000 a year in some cases....You shouldn't really give to these street people.....You are really supporting alcoholism and drug problems".

Thankfully this spurred on The Unions Square Business Improvement District (a collection of 500 property owners downtown San Francisco), to fund a research team. They took a two day period, in March. They spoke to 400 people who gave money to panhandlers/beggars over the past year. Thankfully, they can refute the Mythology. They found which I doubt is anyway different to what one would find in Dublin that 'the typical 'panhandler' or 'beggar' is a 'disabled middle-aged single male who is a racial minority (maybe not yet in Ireland) and makes less than $25 per day despite panhandling seven days a week for more than five years.....in fact 94% of these meager earnings are spent on food....furthermore they found that contrary to the myth people hold that 'they prefer to live on the streets' is wrong and that only 3% of panhandlers don't want housing'.

Words like underclass, victims, mentally ill without out access to proper medical services, lack of education, sparse provision of social workers, drug addicts maintained on methadone for decades without a source of education to help them become working contributors to society by access to education must define Ireland as different, because we are small enough to make changes. Ignorance is no defence. We need to avoid victimology and create opportunities by seeking out alternatives other than a life on the streets begging.

Fr McVerry's name is the man that is accredited for helping the homeless.

His website provides the facts:

................"This page provides statistical information on homelessness and Peter McVerry Trust Services.

Homelessness:

7 – Average number of new presentations of homelessness in Dublin per day. (2012)

30% – Women now account for just over 30% of Ireland’s homeless population.

94 – Minimum number of rough sleepers in Dublin, based on rough sleeper count for April 2013.

307 – Girls aged 19 or under recorded as homeless in the 2011 census.

3,808 – The number of homeless in Ireland recorded in census 2011.

Stark figures for such a small population.

The US survey states that 60% make $25 a day or less, if this is so in Ireland and the hostels cost in excess of e60 per week plus the addition of the what HSE, the DCC, the NGO's , Charities pay to the private owners of the hostels, it makes it quite a pitiful existence with no hope of ever leaving this culture of dependency propigated by commerce.

Why do people give to beggars! The finding is simple. Empathy and a fear that you or a family member may one day be a beggar......if this is so

Come back to the words of wise man 'The world is made up of the Takers and the Taken'

Remember when you see a beggar on the street, chances are through the food they eat, the drink they drink, the accommodation they use, they too and possibly more so are paying tax and re-investing in Ireland Inc......these are paying real indirect taxes daily and recycling money in the economy.

author by Seoirsepublication date Sun Nov 03, 2013 04:43Report this post to the editors

Why give to beggars? A good question Frances. It's easy to become sceptical, to graduate towards lifelong cynicism, to doubt the situations and motives of some who beg.

Simply put, I sometimes give to beggars because in different circumstances they might be me.

The poem should be submitted to a hard copy publication. It encapsulates the awfulness of street poverty among the homelessness, although there are other acute forms of poverty, less dramatic and obvious, among housed families and lonely individuals, in city and village.

author by Justin Morahanpublication date Sat Nov 09, 2013 20:33Report this post to the editors

Well done on the poem and well done to Indymedia for publishing it.. Social issue poems can be a powerful influence for good. In poetry, the writer must choose words more carefully.
Maybe a site for such would be of benefit to society or maybe Indymedia might consider accepting poems on social issues more often?

author by Frances - Homelessnesspublication date Thu Nov 14, 2013 16:30Report this post to the editors

Yes, this should be published in hard copy. Social issues are so easily overlooked and the plight of the homeless is never more urgently in need of attention as the weather changes and winter ensures hardship for those without a home.

Today, I was horrified to hear someone talk about a church in Tallaght, possibly called the Priory. Apparently, in the early hours when it was cold many could be seen taking shelter from the night before under the porch. It was thought that there were more than ten people. What is more harrowing to hear was the identification of so many apartment blocks and their vacant flats, no doubt stagnant because of their Namatisation or due to the inability of Dublin City Council to be able to fund renovations of over 3,500 existing houses in stock or quite evidently to secure from Nama these vacant properties. To say they have no money to house people in our city is just not good enough.

As for the Catholic Church. The time now is to listen to the Pope and his clear message about the sin of corruption and the need to tackle the problem. The Pope is not reticent and his earlier message that wasting food is like stealing from the poor should prompt an immediate response from the powers that be in the Catholic Church in Ireland to tackle the homeless problem. There are too many churches closed. The Japanese got it right; they opened up the Catholic churches to house those who were in need.

We need more transparency. What is the story about the Hade family, the payments from Dublin City Council to family members and the housing of the vulnerable. What happened to those provided with homes particularly those with drug addiction when the Pentecostal Church and the Hade family were named by the Royal Bank of Scotland. In Limbo, no doubt, but what has happened to the people. Could these people the homeless at the Tallaght Church this morning.....left victims of homelessness while the bureaucrats waffle.

author by Seoirsepublication date Thu Nov 14, 2013 23:01Report this post to the editors

I take on board some of your comments about wasting resources such as Namatised empty houses (ghost estates etc.) and canned and packaged food past its sell-by date. The ghost estates, in the name of stabilising the real estate market, won't be given to the homeless and asylum seekers. Like the surplus Californian fruit that was destroyed in Steinbeck's Depression novel, The Grapes of Wrath, some of these unsold dwellings may be ploughed into hard core.

The poem about Bags could, with permission of the author, be printed ornamentally on A4 sized paper (suitable for framing) and sold to the public to raise funds for a charity that deals with homeless people.

author by Comyn - Homelessnesspublication date Tue Jan 28, 2014 16:39Report this post to the editors

Seoirse

Agree with what you have said. However, in the light of the recent scandals relating to charities, one would not want to abuse the writer of this poem to the exploitation of those who avail of Charities as a source of their own ego engrandisement at the expense of the vulnerable in particular those who are homeless. We must consider in this category the many people forced to live in hostels where many will tell you the feel safer out in the open air.

Homelessness, and the abusive industry that has been created needs urgent attention. Day in day out we meet young people on our streets begging for money to pay the hostel for the night. When does this stop? These people need a pathway to work. FAS failed them dismally and now we are told it is the much reduced staff quota of Solas will be dealing with the unemployed. Many of the homeless have other problems like addictions, herein rest more industries that are without regulation. The objective is methadone and clean needles but where is the public health system we have been promised that will provide people with the necessary opportunities to explore their life options. The monstrosity created called the HSE has tentacles into every known charity but with no accountability as we have witnessed by the Rehab and CRC shambles.

Rehab is in the news. The Chief Executive, Angela Kerins, who represents so many more of those privileged elites within the Charities, NGO, sector is out there for the 'flogging'. Phoenix magazine has been the outlier with suggestions that this woman earned in excess of 400,000 euros for her all in package for working for Rehab, a charity. The HSE funds and the Charitable Lotteries provide vast amounts of money to Rehab and others, which is their means of delegating their responsibilities to others at the cost of those most vulnerable in society.

The Sunday Business Post and Tom McGurk makes some interesting points about Charities that people, at every level, need to take account of:-

To briefly summarise: setting up a charity is a relatively simple operation requiring little of no official input. One can set up a charity for a multitude of causes, which explain why there arsee more than 7,000 of them in the country; there are more than 600 Irish charities dealing with Africa alone.

There is virtually no regulation, other than the requirement to make annual tax returns. Astonishingly, there is still no requirement for any percentage of the income raqised to be paid to the charity; so legally one could set up a charity and pay 99 per cent of the income to those running it - including oneself - and leave only 1 per cent to the charity purpose. That would be perfectly legal....


This is a shocking indictment. To me it highlights why the mental health/addiction/neurological outcomes industry in Ireland is so not fit for purpose if you are not one of the lucky people to have private health insurance. It is my belief that something as fundamental as mental health/addiction/neurological should be about basic public health provision. It should be similar to the provision in Canada.

What we know from the Rehab scenario where the HSE paid over 100 million euros in 3 years to Rehab is that they are outsourcing what it is their job to provide and the outcome is the impact on people in homeless situations, asylum seeker hostels and even in prisons.

Transparency and accountability is what we need. The HSE and its tentacles need to be clipped so that people are not exploited. To those who are the collectors of cash at the cold face, they too need to question those elites who run the charities because in the absence of this common sense the abuse is allowed to continue.

author by Phoenix - Social Justice & Equalitypublication date Tue Mar 18, 2014 16:33Report this post to the editors

The winds whips through and into Upper Baggot Street this March Tuesday afternoon.

Sadly on the cold pavement there is some cardboard to protect the person from the cold.

The person is hidden inside the sleeping bag, not to be seen, no collection looking for a hostel bed tonight, just shelter from the harsh reality that is their world, not of choice but of neglect in our society to provide for vulnerable people.

The Sunday Independent - Judge Michael Reilly, our Inspector of Prisons, has produced a damning report which details that as many as 14 people last year left our prisons and died from suicide within days of release. To compound this lack of provision by the State for their immediate needs and most importantly to provide assistance to re-activate their lives, too many other attrocities go unreported. What comes to mind are the two pure innocent children in Athlone, sisters, aged 6 and 10, who were harmlessly playing childrens' games in a home when a man just out of prison stole savagely their precious youth away by sexually abusing them in a most horrific manner. This man returned to jail but their lives and all concerned are confined to their own prison of memories.

There is what only can be called a 'wilful blindness' to mental health provision in Ireland and it is essential that the intentions of the report 'Vision for Change' be updated and implemented. Proper public health provision related to mental health, addictions, is urgentl The dots need to be connected and the underlying theme of inadequate mental health provision can tracked through to homelessness, to prison. The challenge is to deal with the problems early before they destroy lives.

Homelessness: Fr Peter McVerry writes a piece in the Irish Times today.
His Opinion:

"A hostel with 28 beds would need to open each week in order to keep pace with this festering problem"



For decades now Fr McVerry and others have witnessed what circumstances can lead to homelessness.
It is time now for us to listen because what is apparent is that there is a homeless industry being created where the government policy is not empowerment of the individual who finds without a home but an administration of a bureaucracy whose vested interest is their own ie maintaining themselves in employment. Charity is becoming a dirty word and rightly so as we see Dublin City Council, the HSE, paying out tranches of monies to what can only be called subsidiaries. These subsidiaries too often masquerade as charities, NGO's or evangelical churches for that matter.

McVerry states that 6 people are becoming homeless every week while only 2 people each day manage to escape homelessness.

He reminds us about the exits:

.... Social housing.
.... Private rented accommodation (rent allowance now inadequate and people are being forced out of their homes on renewal dates, while landlords seek market rent, which is their entitlement.
.... Voluntary agencies (they can only provide between 1-2% of demand)

The promise of the State is that they will end homelessness by 2016.

The reality is detailed in Fr McVerry's article and the message is shame on us. We need to be instruments of change.

To conclude:

'There has been a 90% drop in social housing output between 2007 and 2011 resulting in a 100% increase in the social housing waiting list, from 43,700 in 2005 to 89,900 in 2013. The Government has allocated funding to build 449 new homes over the next two years - which will reduce the waiting list by 2%'

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