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Dublin: 16 °C Thursday 13 August, 2020
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'The goal is to change the stigma': Homeless Dublin man setting up charity to help homeless

Anthony has been homeless, on and off, for most of his adult life. He says he wants to help others to help themselves.

ant1 Source: Daragh Brophy/TheJournal.ie

CURRENTLY CAMPED IN a south Dublin park, Anthony Brophy has been homeless for most of his adult life – 16 of his 33 years.

He’s lived in a number of squats around the city over the past year, he explained – speaking outside his tent earlier this week.

His friend Micheal is camped next-door. The pair set up their temporary home around two months ago, after the other locations “just didn’t work out,” Anthony said.

ant2 Anthony Brophy, in a photo that appeared alongside a TheJournal.ie article last October. Source: TheJournal.ie

It’s almost a year since he last spoke to TheJournal.ie – at a spot not far from his current campsite. Frustrated with the lack of emergency beds in the city - “some places you wouldn’t put your dog in them” – he described then how he had taken to walking the tracks last thing at night, sleeping under canvas, and then rising the next morning and making the trek in the other direction.

He’s no less frustrated by the current state of affairs with homeless accommodation almost 12 months on, it’s worth stating - but in advance of our chat this week, he had emailed with news of a project he was working on: namely, a plan for a charity run by the homeless, for the homeless.

“It’s basically getting homeless people to get up and work to change the situation themselves,” Anthony explained.

I believe that with the help of all homeless people, homelessness will change all over the world.

He’s been working on the plan for the last few months. A Dublin-based IT worker, Cormac Noonan, who runs social group the Pizza Sunday Club, has been helping him put together the legal documents necessary to register as a charity.

pizza2 Cormac Noonan (wearing the hat) and Martin Connolly of Pizza Sunday Club, with staff members at Dominos. The group organises events to share pizzas with the homeless. Source: Pizza Sunday Club

Said Anthony:

“There’s a stigma about homeless people and that’s the one goal, as a charity, to change that stigma. You don’t have to just sit around in the street and beg for money or wait for a soup run to come out.”

There are countries where “kids are eating out of rubbish bins and dying on the streets,” he said.

We don’t have it that bad in this country. We have a system in place where – I mean, we have it bad in that we’re on the streets, nobody should be homeless – but we have a system of €186 every week, we have a system where we can ring up and get a sleeping bag, or a try and get a bed or try and get a six month hostel.

ant5 Anthony handing out food with a charity group at the GPO. Source: Anthony Brophy

Donating sleeping bags 

Already, he’s been collecting tents and sleeping bags to give out to homeless people who frequent the city centre, or camp in other parks. He picked up some of the tents the day after the Electric Picnic Festival in Laois last week, he said – explaining that he had arranged entry to the event for that purpose.

“My cousin now has, I think, around a hundred sleeping bags in his house. So I meet up with him now at the weekend, and we go around.

I’ve been homeless 16 years – four years, this time around. You learn where people are.

Asked to outline the goals of his planned charity he said it was “mainly about awareness”.

He’s planning to backpack around the coast of Ireland next month – without money, but with leaflets saying he’ll work for food or lodging or a shower “or all of the above depending on how friendly people are”.

It’s just to say that we might be homeless – we’re not helpless. I can help you, you can help me.

Eventually, he wants to put together a charity gig. He’s been talking to a number of musicians about it, he said. “But I want to get stuff under my belt first.”

20160913_103659 Anthony with the latest draft of the constitution for his planned charity. Source: Daragh Brophy/TheJournal.ie

Asked why he wouldn’t prioritise getting himself set up with full-time accommodation first, before helping others, he said:

That could be one way of doing it – but then that would be cheating.

He again stressed how he wanted to raise awareness that homeless people could help themselves, adding: “I can make homeless people aware that their lives matter too.”

He described, as we ended our conversation, how he had been worked on legal documentation – and showed off a thick folder containing his proposed charity’s constitution and other paperwork.

He has already set up a Facebook page and other web accounts for the organisation, which he hopes to register as ‘Homeless Helping Homeless’.

In a phone call, later, Cormac Noonan of Pizza Sunday said that himself and another founder of the group, Martin Connolly, had been helping Anthony with his paperwork for the last few months.

“I thought it was a brilliant idea. He sees that homeless people have a chance to help themselves. He’s an example of what you can do.

He had the idea for a while, he said – and he came to us with it. We’ve been giving him a bit of help, but all the ideas are Anthony’s.

Related: Dozens of homeless people will share pizza with the public on Grafton Street this evening >

Also: In a south Dublin park, three men and a dog bed down for the night >

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