The number of rough sleepers is on the rise in Ireland.
According to the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, nearly 9000 people were declared homeless across the North and South of Ireland in November 2017.
The number of families becoming homeless has increased by over 30% since 2016, and more than 1 in 3 of those in emergency accommodation is now a child.
Last month, the official rough sleeping count confirmed 184 people sleeping rough in Dublin alone.
More and more statistics surrounding the increasing concern of homelessness are flooding our television screens, radio channels, and online feeds.
Our hostels are full, our streets are brimming, and the problem of homelessness is only getting worse.
So what do we do? Where do we even begin? How can we start to tackle a problem so big that even our Government are scratching their heads?
You could say that putting a beanie on someone’s head isn’t the same as putting a roof over their head, and you would be right.
You could say that making a donation to a homeless charity to provide the financial means to get someone out of homelessness isn’t going to remove their addiction or guarantee life long sustainability off the streets, and you would be right.
You could say that one conversation with someone living on the side of the road isn’t going to eradicate their loneliness for good, and yes, you would be right.
Frederick Douglas once said: “if there is no struggle, there is no progress”. The movement of OutsideIn was never going to be an easy one. In order for deep-seated transformation of any social problem to come, there must first be the understanding that Rome was not built in a day. Radical change takes perseverance, commitment, and time.
Yes, putting a beanie on someone’s head isn’t the same as putting a roof over their head, but think of the value that person would feel if someone actually took the time to stop and give them a gift.
Making a donation to a homeless charity to provide the financial means to get someone out of homelessness isn’t going to remove their addiction or guarantee life long sustainability off the streets, but it may just get someone that little bit closer to where they need to be to overcome those bigger problems.
One conversation with someone living on the side of the road may not eradicate their loneliness for good, but it might just be the very conversation of hope that keeps them on this earth that little bit longer.
Just because these simple actions don’t lead directly to the ultimate goal doesn’t make them futile.
In reaching a goal that demands a lot, do not despise small beginnings, for they are the stepping-stones needed to reach the final destination.
Our goal is to end homelessness. Period.
But not only that, we want to totally turn our society’s views on homelessness on its head. We want every person without a home, every addict, every refugee, every person who has ever been told that they’re an outsider to have the value they deserve restored to them.
You see, a homeless person isn’t a “dirty beggar” who just lies on our streets. That’s someone’s son or daughter. That could be someone’s father, or mother. Or brother, sister, uncle, auntie. They have a name, an identity, a purpose, a story. They are human, and so they hold intrinsic value. Nothing can ever change that.
That person you see sleeping on sheets of concrete on your daily commute didn’t always live like that. More than likely, somewhere along the line of their life, they experienced a tremendous amount of abuse, pain, and hurt.
Divorce, sickness, parental abuse, rape – whatever it was, it took over their life. They were never made to handle it, so they ran from it. The thought of numbing the pain with the "feel good" factor from drugs and alcohol suddenly becomes very appealing.
Just a bit of relief.
Just an hour to escape.
Just something, anything, to take away the agony for a little while.
But it never lasts. It never satisfies. And before you know it, you’re trapped. Trapped without a family. Trapped without a job. Trapped without a home.
But what makes it worse? No one around you seems to care.
9 out of 10 homeless people that we have talked to revealed that the worst part about sleeping rough is the intense loneliness they feel. The feelings of rejection and isolation were worse than the bitter cold they felt at night.
Imagine living on some of the busiest streets in major cities across the UK, yet not one person stops to say hello or acknowledge your existence. Imagine what a difference it would make if one person just stopped and said hello.
They are human, and their lives matter.
Statistics may be increasing, but our movement will keep growing.
Yes, giving a beanie to someone living on the streets is not going to transform their life overnight, but it could be that one little step in the right direction to reach a bigger goal.
The goal to see our streets deserted.
The goal to put an end to homelessness for good.
- Judy Shaw