I love Ireland. Anyone who reads this blog or who knows me personally knows how much I do. I often joke that if I could marry Ireland, I would marry Ireland.
What I’m about to write is absolutely not just an Irish problem, but in fact a worldwide issue. Some days however, I feel awful being a part of a society that lets beggars sit half-naked, without shoes, without pants in the bitter cold on one of the busiest shopping streets of Ireland (Henry Street, just off O’Connell Street).
People walking past carry large shopping bags filled with new clothes from expensive stores. Too occupied with their new belongings, they fail to recognise the plight of the half-naked man. Some glance, but when they do, they show contempt: “How dare he sit here like that?!”
Homelessness is very much a ‘right-in-your-face’ societal and political issue, not just in Dublin or Cork, but everywhere in Ireland. Perhaps it does not fit in many people’s reality, but it doesn’t make it a lesser reality because they deny this person’s hardship. If anything, people who show contempt for someone so poor and so down and out, only gets contempt from me.
We’re 7 weeks away from Christmas, and because I have seen this man sitting there before, I foresee him still sitting there with a dirty coffee cup for people to throw some money in. Still no socks, no shoes, no pants, no nothing. Have we all become so selfish that we cannot even give this man something as cheap as a pair of socks and other clothes to get him dressed against this harsh, cold weather? I felt ashamed and defenseless against the continuing reality of this man, his daily living – suffering would be the more proper term to use – and the lack of interest in his well-being.
I refuse to stand idle against social issues and discrimination like this. Charity begins at home, and it’s time for Dáil Éireann to step up and locally spend millions on homelessness instead of sending it abroad as foreign aid.
Tomorrow I am bringing the half-naked man clothes and I hope he will accept them. His dignity is long gone but that does not mean that the man is past helping. Charity also comes from within, and if people do not feel empathy and understanding for a human being who is so clearly anguished, then I’m afraid I fail to see what would make them feel anything at all.
I am not huge on religion but isn’t looking after people part of our moral make-up of being human? “Do not unto others what you would not want others to do unto you,” Confucius said. Have our morals really dropped that low that we cannot comprehend in the slightest what a homeless, undressed and hungry person must be going through?
Of course this is not only an Irish situation as you will find beggars everywhere you go. What is endemic to Ireland though is that its people are well-known for being helpful and social, and more so than in other countries. This morning though, society turned its face away from visible, clear misery. The people who showed contempt at this half-naked man might not be Irish at all, but it was upsetting to see either way.
I know that some beggars do so to buy food, while others beg to buy drugs or alcohol. This man does not need drugs, he needs clothes on his back, shoes on his feet and some food in his belly to make him feel somewhat dignified. If we are not able to help him, who will? The government? Somehow I don’t think so.
If you’re in Dublin, Ireland and you have old clothes, please spare a thought for the homeless in our city and country. The man I refer to is sitting near the Aldo shoe shop in Henry Street, just off O’Connell Street. He is sitting down, t-shirt pulled over his legs to hide his bare legs and he’s not wearing shoes. He is skinny, between 5ft 3 and 5ft 10, dark-haired and has brown eyes. When I last saw him it was approximately 11.30am, and I have seen him sitting there before, so this must be his regular spot to beg.
Hopefully – how sad a hope is this – he will be there tomorrow morning.
Please help our homeless.
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