As I sat and watched a video on Twitter of Sligos Marc McSharry levy the dire housing situation of Sligo-Leitrim at Micheal Martin, I am filled with exasperation. On one hand its welcome to hear Mcsharry highlighting this on the other hand I know that the regular Joe soap hasn't got any true sense of how bad things or nor does he give much of a fuck as long as his needs are met, warm gaff, regular job, pints and maybe a game of pool in the belfry at the weekend and a regular subscription to RTEs mind rot, some generic faecal matter to regurgitate at the bar to find some sense of communal identity with someone, any rising guilt or empathy for the fellow Irish family and their suffering is easily pacified with the news that Sligo Count Council, SCC, are invoking emergency powers to build 24 high spec modular homes to house Ukrainian Refugees in the picturesque Doorly Park, we are so woke and caring. Over the years I've engaged with the homeless services in Sligo many times, thanks be to God not for myself but on behalf of some local people in need. I will share 2 of these people's stories with you reader with the promise to be brief.
One man, we will call him Neville, was in the throes of a mental breakdown, babbling, incoherent, wandering all night and day for days on end, not eating or drinking water, he had been evicted and clearly not taking it very well. I brought him to both Maryville and Shalomar hostel only to be turned away because they were full, they offered a tent and a sleeping bag, pouring rain, no room in the Inn. In the end I brought him to the hospital in the hopes he would be referred to psychiatry and perhaps shelter from the rain in the waiting room. Perhaps you might think this was the better place for him but the point is the service let him down, there should have been a mechanism to deal with that man, it comes back to resourcing, Neville needed to be treated kindly at that point as he was clearly vulnerable but instead he was turned away.
The other story is a man we will name Rick from Eastern Europe, he phoned me up as we were friends and asked if I could help him get into a hostel as he had to leave Dublin. He was a lovely fellow, a truly amazing artist and real charismatic character, his problem was and is he's an alcoholic and quite small and skinny which meant he was frequently picked on by some of the more sinister characters that use homeless services. Maryville hostel refused him on the first night as they were full and he slept rough, local counsellor Gino O'Boyle advised that I contact the Northwest Simon Community. Thanks Gino for the advice they were very helpful to him, they got him some items he really needed and they tried their utmost to get him emergency accommodation. I watched as the lady phoned landlord after landlord, what a futile and pointless task but respect to her and them for trying. Maryville admitted him to the hostel at the weekend but told him he would have to attend a meeting with SCC to discuss his case. I decided to go with him for emotional support but also I sensed he was about to be let down and I wanted to bear witness.
The lady we dealt with led the conversation stating that the problem was he was HAP registered in Dublin, she asked why he left. I listened as Rick told his story of being sexually abused in the hostels there, he described how it happened, she asked why he had not reported this to the guards or the hostel, he told her he couldn't because they had to leave the hostel in the early part of the day and he would see these scumbags in town and the robbery and abuse would continue on the streets anyway, if he had ratted on them they would kill him. His only option was to flee. She looked at him and said she was very sorry but he couldn't access services in Sligo because he was HAP registered in a different county. Poor Rick wept. Such was the desperation of SCC to mitigate their duty of care, another 1 case off their books, that they failed this poor fellow. He needed to be treated with dignity, he pleaded with her through tears and she refused him with an essence of "computer-says-no". While these individual cases are quite bad you have to truly appreciate the scale of the crisis at hand. McSharry said the figure of homeless FAMILIES in Sligo was 1,500, obviously the true figure is far north of that with the hidden homeless, these 1,500 cases are registered cases, most couch-surf and don't engage with the service as it often involves staying in a hostel and fears of being victimised.
There exists, somewhere, a housing list and God only knows what it's composition is or how it's navigated, if one is short for a laugh or entertainment they could simply phone up and ask where on this list their case is. Rent prices in Sligo Town have Doubled over the past years, HAP is less than inadequate and then there's the problem of supply. A factory owner in rural Tubbercurry told me once that they couldn't expand their current line because of zero accommodation locally for an incoming workforce, all of this together means that the majority of the population are one bad decision away from being destitute. So the question Isn't why are SCC going to such lengths to house Ukrainians, the question isn't why are they allowing the housing crisis to further deteriorate while they do nothing, the question HAS to be why are we bringing in more and more people while the Irish die on the streets. This situation has the raw stench of our noses being firmly rubbed in it. I'll conclude by saying the problem and solution lies with all of us, individually and collectively, for not causing uproar over it year after year, for not getting involved in activism, for not realising that our EU membership is creating the core of this crisis and the rest by the people we place in government power. The EU put a cap on the number of new builds we are allowed, we reached that cap very early in the year, at the same time they are mandating how many immigrants we take, (see UN migration pact) so think of MM's response to Mcsharry, where he babbled about pilot scheme this and new social housing that, the real housing strategy in action seems to be the equivalent of bailing water out of the titanic with a pint glass.
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