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'Listen to us. Treat us as people': Messages for the next government from Dublin's homeless community

During this campaign, TheJournal.ie has been collecting views on the election from those experiencing homelessness.

SAFETY, EMPLOYMENT, EMPATHY. These are just some of the needs which people in Dublin experiencing homelessness want the next government to prioritise.

They don’t feel safe in hostels – or on the streets, where they say they are ‘bullied by gangs’. They find it hard to access education, jobs or even basic information because they do not have a stable living environment. And they feel that no one listens to them, or looks at them and that they are not seen by most politicians as human, or worthy. 

In 2014, during what we thought then was the height of the homeless crisis, TheJournal.ie‘s Homeless Postcard project collected the views of people who were living on the country’s streets and in its hostels.

The Homeless Postcard project returns for the general election and over the past two weeks – with the assistance of a number of homeless services – we have been asking the community for their opinions on the current political situation.

Here’s what they told us

Many of the postcard respondents spoke about issues in hostels – safety, drug use and lack of services, while several spoke about bullying.

One rough sleeper who has been homeless for seven years said they tried hostels but was “beaten and robbed”.

“I drunk but no drugs, if you don’t do drugs, stay away [from hostels].”

They plan to vote in the election:

Another woman wrote about living “in fear”. She will not go to a hostel and sleeps on the street instead:

“I try to keep to myself, the hostels are bad but I would not survive on the street,” this person wrote.

They’ve been homeless for ten years. Their message for the next government?

“Listen to us.”

“Open your eyes,” this person tells the next government. They’ve been homeless for 16 years. 

At the Depaul hostel on Back Lane, one person had their own manifesto to share with the government. They have been homeless for seven years and do not plan to vote in the election because “no one qualifies as it stands”. They want free education, a ban on plastics, more affordable fruit and vegetables and sex education for children after puberty:

There was a shorter message from another person at this hostel, who has been homeless for 20 years – it’s “way beyond time” to fix this crisis:

Another brief message from someone who has been homeless for 15 years, usually sleeping in hostels – “Get the country sorted”.

Some of our postcard respondents spoke of leaving the care system, straight into homelessness:

One person who was staying in Depaul’s Little Britain Street hostel the night they filled in the card said they’ve been homeless for 17 years – “Too fucking long”.

They are planning to vote, but not for any of the large political parties. They want to “give some new faces a chance”, a government that “really wants to help the country”.

Another service user at this hostel, who has been homeless for 15 years, also said they’ll vote, adding “…would like to see a lot more for the homeless, everybody deserves a home”.

This person, like many others who filled out the postcards for us, plans to vote or Sinn Féin.

This woman has been homeless for six years. She was sleeping rough, but homeless services got her and her boyfriend into a hostel. She says she’ll vote in the election:

Other parties did get a look in, with mentions of the Green Party and People Before Profit on some. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael also got one mention each, out of 65 postcards. Some named individual candidates, like independent Christy Burke and Social Democrats candidate Gary Gannon:

But some, like this person who has been homeless for 29 years and “has never seen it as bad” said there was no one they would vote for, apart from the volunteers who stop to talk to them and help them:

While some focused on specific policy areas or services, many of the cards simply asked the next government to treat them like human beings:

The postcards were distributed to a number of hostels across Dublin and volunteers with Babs, a listening service provided through Inner City Helping Homeless, also filled in the cards with rough sleepers in the city over two evenings. Some of the cards were filled in with the assistance of or by volunteers in cases where the person was not comfortable with reading and writing themselves, or they were out on the streets.

We sent the postcards to a number of services outside Dublin – we’ll share those too, as soon as they arrive back in the post.

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