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Martin is home at last: 14 years on the street and finally a door to close behind him

Photographer Donal Moloney has been following Martin’s story for years. Here, he finds a wonderful ending.

Martin Hart takes in his new surroundings.
Martin Hart takes in his new surroundings.
Image: Donal Moloney via Vimeo

“I FEEL LIKE I’m a burglar here more so than anything.”

After 14 years on the streets, Martin Hart’s natural reaction to being shown a small but perfectly-formed apartment that could – should he choose – become his home is to be overwhelmed. Possibly incredulous. But certainly honest.

Photographer Donal Moloney has previously charted Martin’s life as a homeless man in Dublin in his award-winning short film Martin.

In this follow-up, we learn that Martin has come to the attention of the Housing First team. TheJournal.ie has highlighted the work of this service – overseen by Focus Ireland and the Peter McVerry Trust – which has as its objective to transition people from living on the streets into homes of their own. The approach is 360, including health professionals, property manager, outreach workers, among others, with the aim to make the transition long-term and sustainable.

Donal, who has developed a relationship of trust and friendship over the four years he has known Martin, tells the next chapter in the story:

“Martin’s life had been threatened a number of times by a local thug and I had reported it to the police. Martin avoids confrontation at all times and in the four years I’ve known him, I’ve yet to even hear him curse.

“One morning I arrived to find him in his sleeping bag with all his belongings missing. I asked where his stuff was and he told me that the thug had returned and took everything. Not only that but he took Martin’s shoes and had been lying in the sleeping bag for two days without being able to go anywhere.

“During my conversation I noticed he was perusing a number of photos of an apartment. I asked him what they were and he said that, ‘Sean dropped them by,’ and that there was an offer of an apartment. I said, ‘That’s fantastic!’

‘I declined,’ said Martin. ‘I’m quite happy here.’ I couldn’t believe it and to make matters worse, the apartment had to be occupied by the weekend or it was gone.

“Martin had been offered accommodation in the past but refused. I walked away that day desperately trying to think how I might change his mind. He’s not getting any younger, his life is under threat and the harsh living will eventually catch up with him.

“I went home and had a notion. What if I contacted this guy ‘Sean’ and had a chat? Sean told me that Martin was not for turning and he had tried. I asked Sean to meet me under the bridge at 11am on Thursday morning and pretend we had never met. Maybe my powers of persuasion and Sean’s outstanding offer might at least have him take a look at the apartment.

“Thursday came and I arrived first at the bridge. It had happened again. Martin had his all new stuff stolen again by the junkie and was shoeless.

“Sean arrived and I said, ‘Nice to meet you. Guess what? Martin has been robbed again.’ Sean played it cool and I then looked at Martin and said, ‘You know what you want, Martin?’

‘What,’ he said.’A fucking apartment,’ I replied. ‘You cannot go on like this. Won’t you at least have a look at the apartment that’s being offered and then make a decision?’

“Sean basically repeated what I had just said and there was a long pause.

“‘Ok,’ he replied.

“On 23 September, 2016, this happened.”

[Editor's note: Donal waited a year to publish this video in order to give Martin to settle into his new life. He's happy to report that Martin is extremely houseproud and the two men regularly meet up as friends.]

Please watch:


Source: Donal Moloney/Vimeo

Donal writes:

“If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised or if you’d like to donate, please contact the PMV Trust or Focus Ireland.”

Meet the team taking chronic rough sleepers off the streets and giving them their own home>

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