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Dublin: 11 °C Sunday 21 December, 2014

My Christmas Day: ‘It’s just another day on the street for me’

‘Mike’ has no home to go to this Christmas. He describes what life is like on the streets – and how common death is.

‘Mike’ is a homeless man with addiction problems, who uses the services at Merchant’s Quay Ireland. He spoke to TheJournal.ie about the hopelessness he faces every day and why Christmas doesn’t mean much to him.

I HAVE BEEN homeless since I was 23 years old. No one has ever looked out for me, no one ever really cared about me. I became homeless because I had issues in my childhood and drugs was the only way out for me it seemed. From my early twenties on I just felt there was no where for me to turn. Don’t get me wrong though, I am very grateful to the people in Merchant’s Quay. I can come here often and it’s a great place to visit during the day, it’s something to do.

I have been homeless for a long time and what I do notice is there is a lot more foreign nationals homeless than there were a few years ago. When I say that, it sounds as if I am being racist, but I am not. I know they are homeless too, just like me. I don’t think there is enough support for us all.

Wandering the streets

I’ve been wandering the streets for over 15 years. People can be nice to me, they can give me money, but most people just ignore me. They say that in the recession it’s getting worse, that there is more people on the streets, but it’s not really, it has always been this bad – its just that no one ever cared or paid attention. Now people think we are worse off because no one has money – but we never did.

The only people that noticed are the people that work here. I’ve felt suicidal, on and off, ever since I became homeless. I have good days and bad, but I just feel that there is sometimes no one there to help me. I have very low lows.

The homeless community is okay to one another – some of us look out for each other. I go to Merchant’s Quay regularly so I know a lot of the people. They are my friends I suppose, but most of my friends are dead. Most are dead from sitting on the streets, and drugs of course. There have been tragic deaths in the last two years and also that poor man in Bray. Each one of those deaths is a tragedy, and yes, it gets newspaper coverage when it happens, but then we get forgotten. But this is not a new thing. I have been homeless nearly twenty years – that’s disgraceful.

Shelter in hostels

Hostels are not a solution to this problem. They are not safe and we shouldn’t use them. For women particularly. There are people, like me, that don’t want to use hostels – I would prefer to take my chances on the street to be honest. I usually sleep on the street, although a house would be better.

I have dealt with drugs issues since I was aged 13. I have been clean, I’ve been in recovery, but I have relapsed a lot too. It’s a constant struggle to get off them. When I relapse, that usually happens because I have had to stay in  a hostel, where I am put into the exact situation I shouldn’t be in. The government say they want to help, they want to stop drug use, and then they make me stay in a house full of druggies, when I am trying to stay clean – how is that right?

That’s is why everyone is dying lately. I know of people that have just had enough. I don’t think, fundraising or campaigns make a difference to my situation. It’s not that our voices are not being heard – it’s that people just don’t seem to care. On the street no one gives a fuck about us.

What I have noticed from my years on the streets is that there are a lot more kids out on the street. When you walk around the streets at three o’ clock in the morning, the majority of homeless teenagers you see are girls, now that is something to worry about. I have heard of women and young girls using the hostels, because it’s cold out there, there is no other option when there is no room anywhere else.

I have heard of many cases of rape taking place in hostels and in alley ways. As if it isn’t hard enough, women have to think about that too.  If I could say something to younger people I would say don’t take drugs, get a life. It sounds stupid, but it’s bloody true.

So it’s Christmas, so what? Christmas to me is nothing. It is just another day on the street for me.

‘Mike’ did not want to use his real name. He gets help and support at Merchant’s Quay Ireland. You can also find them on Facebook. To make a donation towards their Christmas appeal please click here.

Column: ‘Your hope goes, and that’s that’ – a homeless drug user’s story>

Column: I was homeless for months, because I couldn’t prove I was Irish>

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