My name is Sean, I’m going to be 23 in January, this’ll be my third Christmas on the streets. The last proper Christmas I think I had was when I was 14. That’s the last time I was living with my Mam and my little sister and brother – it was great, we didn’t have much but we were in a flat up on Dorset Street and we were warm and dry and Mam did her best with a few presents and all.
Christmas ever since then has been hard – I was either in care or I’ve been on the streets. Mam was unwell with her mental health so they said it was better for us to go into care, my Nanny took my little brother and sister but she didn’t have room for me so that’s when everything started getting hard for me.
I bed down usually around the GPO, it feels a bit safer there because there’s street lights and there’s a few of us who keep each other company. I don’t know why but it’s become a lot scarier on the streets in the last few years – you’d be afraid to sleep because you can get robbed or beaten up – there are a lot more assaults on homeless people now. Because it’s Christmas time it’s even busier around town, loads of people coming from the pubs and it’s just very hard to get any sleep – I stay awake because you have to have your wits about you.
Dublin Simon come around and check on us each night, they offer us a bed when they have them but they check on us to make sure we’re ok, sometimes it feels like they’re the only people who actually look out for me – the only people who care where I am. I always get some food from them and clothes when I need them – a warm coat – hats, gloves and socks too. It’s so cold at this time of year during the day, never mind at night-time.
Seeing the Christmas lights on O’Connell Street and in the shops just makes me feel ten times lonelier. I don’t stay in touch with anyone in my family. I’m a bit ashamed of where I am right now, a bit disappointed in myself. I dread that I might run into my Mam or my Nan or my brother or sister. I hope they are doing better than I am.
One of the auld lads I’ve known on the street for years hasn’t been around in ages and I just found out he died in St James’, he wasn’t well, he’d been drinking for years so think the cold and wet made him worse. He was only 58 – not exactly old but when you’re on the streets like us you don’t get to be old.
I don’t blame him for drinking either, it’s so hard not to start drinking every day – it’s a way to forget about your problems, you drink to try and stay warm, you drink to get rid of all the memories you have – good or bad – you don’t want to remember any of it. You feel so worthless when you’re homeless – no one cares, no one gives you the time of day. Besides Dublin Simon as I said – they’re always trying to help us and keep tabs on how we’re doing.
When I do get a bed it’s great to get indoors for a few nights and get clean and get warm. The staff are always very welcoming and they tell you about all the things they can do to help – access to detox if you need it, help with filling out medical forms or just a cup of tea and a chat – you don’t get to just chat to people when you’re homeless.
I always keep an eye out for my friend Roisin, she used to be up around Stephens Green but I hadn’t seen her in ages and was starting to get worried about her but one of the lads from Dublin Simon told me they had gone looking for her and thankfully she sent them a letter to say she was ok and she was with family in Meath – that’s what I mean about Dublin Simon, they become friends with you so you want to let them know if you’re ok because they’ll be looking for you. I hope Roisin has a happy ending with her family because the streets of Dublin are no place for a lovely woman like her.
I thank all the people who donate to Dublin Simon because they’re helping homeless people and the problem is only getting worse, I see people like me every day but you hear now of mothers and their kids sleeping overnight in cars – that’s never happened until now. I feel sorry for those kids. I hope I don’t hear any more of that because kids should have a home – Christmas just isn’t Christmas when you’re homeless.
I like to think that someday I’ll be in a house with kids of my own and I’ll be hanging up the stockings for Santa and watching my kids get excited for their presents. Just like my mam used to do for us when I was small.
With the help of Dublin Simon I’m hoping to get into a long-term bed and sort myself out. I have to deal with some of the things that messed me up as a kid so I’m hoping to maybe get some counselling to help me figure things out and get off the streets, Dublin Simon have promised they can help me. I’m still young so I still feel like I have a bit of hope that I can turn things around. I haven’t seen my Nanny or my little brother and sister in a long time – I don’t want them to see me like this. So that’s my plan.
I’d just like to say to everyone who helps Dublin Simon Community that you’re doing something special and people like me appreciate it, it lets us know we’re not alone.
*The name of the client has been changed in this letter and the imagery used is of an actor. This is to protect the dignity and anonymity of our clients.