A homeless man was found dead in a doorway this morning in Dublin just metres from the beautiful and historical mansion, “Leinster House”, in which our elected leaders spend their days. Poor man. The members of our parliament will be able to walk past the doorway in which he died on their way home this evening. That’s as close as this country’s homelessness crisis will ever get to most of them.
They are lucky.
I wonder how many of our T.Ds really listen to pleas for action on homelessness from campaigners like Fr. Peter McVerry. McVerry, and his like, insist that many more people will die. It is inevitable, they warn, because things have never been this bad before. Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy, founder of Focus Ireland, says that she herself knows of forty five families made homeless in just the past month. We are definitely in crisis, they say.
The message does not seem to be making its way through the fine doors of Leinster House. There just ain’t enough happening nor happening fast enough to make us believe that the politicians see this as a “Crisis”. A crisis would command more attention.
What we have at this moment in our history is an avalanche of homelessness brought about by the bad deeds and spinelessness of those in control of our financial institutions in recent years. And now, weeks from Christmas, entire families are being forced from their homes and people are dying in doorways. Shame on all of us for allowing history to repeat itself.
One of the saddest things I have heard on Irish radio in recent days was a woman who spoke about how her children, experiencing homelessness for the first time, were most worried coming up to Christmas.
They asked her how Santa would be able to find them now that they had no house to live in.
How on earth does a parent deal with that?
Children are the ones who suffer most because they suffer confusion. They do not understand that they have no chimney for Santa this year because powerful men in some bank very far away from their house did very bad things. And they don’t understand that nobody will help them.
Peter McVerry talks of Irish parents who choose to put their children into care because they will not bring them onto the streets with them. Hobson’s Choice indeed.
Our Shameful Past, when thousands of Irish were put on the road, is taught in our schools. I know this. I taught it.
I taught kids about the Famine, about Land Agents and Landlords, about Rent Arrears, about Land Clearances, about Emigration and about death.
The word “Eviction” had to be explained to the kids I taught. They learned how to spell it. Nowadays I doubt it takes much teaching. They can live it as well as spell it.
We learned in class about how there was no state care back in those days for the homeless and the helpless and the sick and the dying. The children were wide eyed at the notion that you could be just left somewhere to die.
The term “Rack Rent” should be easy to explain to a lot of kids today as well. This isn’t confined to the pages of their history books either.
And no kid could ever understand the cruelty of burning a family’s home following eviction to make absolutely sure it could not be reoccupied. Taking a house off people who needed it and putting it beyond their reach. Why? They asked …sure, why did the people have to leave if the Landlords were so well off that they clearly didn’t need the houses for themselves? I was never able to come up with an answer that had the word “Justice” at its heart.
The thing was …I thought I was teaching history. Perhaps I wasn’t.
Today we have elderly people thrown out on the street in their night clothes by burly “official” men, the locks changed on their home’s door to prevent re-entry. They can go wherever the Hell they like.
We have no homes for people. Even to rent. I once taught about “Absentee” Landlords. Well, they haven’t gone away either, you know.
Ireland once again witnesses vast numbers of her young people taking off for foreign places to try to put some sort of life together for themselves. There will be empty chairs at Christmas tables and tears instead of laughter in many Irish homes. Talking on Skype just ain’t the same and you can’t get a decent hug off the pixels.
It has been often said before…”History teaches us nothing except that history teaches us nothing”.
There are many voices calling now for a “revolution” in Ireland. Revolution never goes too well for The People. Pick me one where nobody got hurt.
But, as Pope Francis tells us in his recent, Evangelii Gaudium, “Poverty begets violence”.
And violence begets revolution.
And more and more, I think of the W.B. Yeats poem that I taught in school, “The Second Coming” and those final lines which painted for me their picture of imminent Revolution and mayhem, the ones that always made me shudder…
“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”
We need to be aware that sooner or later, people will cease to be content with having nowhere to live. People will become angry that their loved ones are dying in doorways. Perhaps we will indeed have more of our sad history repeated, and Ireland will see yet another terrible Revolution.
Do we want that?
If we don’t then we need to be telling those in power in Ireland that we are not happy today.
If YOU are reading this then maybe you also feel that a Revolution might not be the best way forward for Ireland.
Tell them so!
Email your T.D. if you are in Ireland. Email our Irish leaders no matter where in the world you are. Tell them what you think about this crisis.
They need to know that we in Ireland are not yet gunning for another revolution …but it could happen as long as we do nothing about the Crisis things.
Phone Number 0035316194000