The plight of the homeless in Ireland.
What is a day in the life of people living in Ireland today? If we’re lucky we awake to the stress of travelling to work, breakfast and getting the children ready for school. What of those who do not have this luck?
“Last night my phone was stolen, together with my shoes and my unclean shirt. Today I sit crying, lonely, the music in my phone is gone. There is no longer the option to escape through those sounds to a place where this life is forgotten.
On cold nights, I phone the council help line seeking a warm place to stay. I realise that in so seeking it is only physical warmth that may be my right. Expect no compassion, the staff are tired, some mean but mostly tired. Expect no cleanliness, the budget for these places it appears does not extend to removing the urine stained and smelling sheets from the weeks of use. When I’m informed that without the €4.50 with me there will be no place, I know then that I would rather sleep rough, for that pittance will buy danger, dirt and stolen things. My new boots, the donated phone, another old shirt will be stuffed into my pillow. While laying there awake, insomnia brought on by the shouting of drug users and alcoholics in loud debate about the merits and rights that they have lost. With a fight there is the removal of the loudest but not the worst. Another man has a heart attack in the next bed. This with the smell of stale urine from the sheets on which I lie has me lie awake awaiting the next day and my forced exit with warm porridge and a half cooked egg, if I’m lucky.
It is then that I begin again the seeking of that same €4.50 for the next tortuous night. My tooth aches. The dentist caring for those of us homeless examines me and says that I need a root canal treatment to the affected molar. This he says will cost 250. I look at him and say that’s fine, I’ve got €3.25. He looks at me with heavy eyes admitting the irony and proceeds with his assistant to remove the mountain in my mouth. Like a volcano removing a mountain there remains after the forty minutes violent struggle a gaping hole. It pains me for days.
If you’re listening I won’t stop talking for it is so seldom that anyone pays attention.”
These are not my sentiments nor my words, patiently listened to over a coffee with a well spoken man who finds himself in this lonely planet. Not the loneliness of holidays travelling but it seems more expensive, not only in money terms but in the sacrifice of dignity.
Like those few that I knew who worked alone their talks molested those listening like the shout of loneliness. I know that this scream from the homeless is not the want to be heard or listened to but to be respected. The tired abuse from the help line and the disregard offered in stained sheets both combine to create a feeling of being unwanted. The valueless feeling some believe true, but the truth is we are all born naked and in need, the same and equal!
As if the pain were not enough, each hostel place is subsidised by the state, that is in addition to the €4.50 sought. I’m informed that the state pays €35 per bed space per night. There are hotels in Dublin that charge less than the €39.50 for bed spaces, with en-suite showers and full hot breakfasts included. Holiday hostels are cheaper again. How can the dire level of accommodation offered to these vulnerable people be so expensive?
Lee Halpin dies trying to expose the pain and danger of this life.
via Boots in my pillow!.
Soviet posters of 1970th. The unusual, interesting and sometimes strange design of Soviet artists.
“To strengthen the friendship of Socialist countries youth!”
“Moscow is the capital of Olympics 1980″
“Protect the birds”
“For the high quality of field work!”
“First international book exhibition in Moscow”
“Textile industry needs young people!”
“Your work for the glory of the country!”
Austerity as the latest paradigm from the neoliberals is set to last us a number of years. One thing we know about how the capitalists work is that they like a large section of the population to be searching for work at any one time as this suppresses wages and allows businesses to act flexibly in competition with one another.
Unemployment is at widely differing rates around the world and different countries measure it in different ways. Unemployment in one country might mean relying solely on government benefits until a job is found. In others it might be measured differently and result in more interventions from the state than simply receiving a hand out. At our last set of lectures we learnt that in South Africa you don’t get counted in the figures if you eat the produce from fishing or hunting. Likewise if you beg you are not considered unemployed. In the UK we have an increasing number of people on workfare schemes and others slipping in and out of informal and part-time work ans therefore slipping in and out of informal stats. Unemployment is mysterious and not simply one thing that is easily defined.
One concern we should have is the effects of austerity for school leavers and those at retirement age. It is very rare these two groups are looked at together and yet at the extremities of the labour market it seems to me that they have much in common in terms of feeling the brunt of austerity measures.
For years the establishment has been warning of a pensions black hole and the ruling class answer to this has been to raise retirement age in the hope that most people will die without having to draw any money from the state or their investments. So people will have to drive themselves into the ground. That is politically easier to put into operation than simply ditching state pensions altogether but you do wonder how many decades we are away from that policy objective.
The rules in place for working longer aren’t matched by employers being sympathetic about getting older. The older we get the more likely we are to develop disabilities and need adjustments in the workplace which might cost money. The policies on retirement age therefore produce tension and worry amongst the workforce and as markets liberalise we find that people have less choice and power over their lives. The idea that people who have contributed for decades and built up an account full of deferred wages for use later in life is becoming a quaint notion.
At the other end of the scale we have young people, educated either privately or by the state. Either way their education has been one long training course for the rest of their lives. State school leavers face the prospect of there being very few jobs available right now. At the same time their options with regards to further and higher education are being set by the ruling class on economic factors alone. I worry that this effectively means that thousands of people are going to be joining benefit queues each summer. How is that going to help increase taxation revenues and secure pensions? How will less public sector jobs help the situation? How will the mass of people at retirement age still working help the situation?
The answer of course is that they don’t want this to get better. Austerity is a doctrine being used to create a narrative to explain the crisis of capitalism. It is a crisis of the rich and by the rich but one where you pick up the bill. It doesn’t matter whether you’re young or old, they want you to either work longer till you die or take any crummy job you can get to keep off benefits. In fact it would be best if you took poorly paid work for the rest of your life and died before retiring please. And as work is paid less and less so benefits are reduced as an incentive to get you up in the morning looking for work if you do happen to be unemployed.
Of course there is another way. Hell, there are lots of other ways! The UK is a rich nation with a flatlining economy. The UK isn’t getting poorer – you are. In other words some people are still getting a great deal richer at your expense. Board room pay is up 27% this last year. The wealth is there to fund retirement with dignity. The wealth is there to ensure nobody need feel any poorer. The wealth though has been taken from those who do the work by those who have the power.
We must have the courage to fight for it.