By Jason Michael

When the Gardaí tell homeless people to “move on,” where do they think these people are going to go? Homelessness, as the word implies, means that these people have nowhere to go. Encounters with the police often leave the homeless bruised.

Ireland has ordered its economic priorities in such a way that it produces otherwise unnecessary deprivation, poverty, and homelessness. When presented with a provisional solution to the nation’s chronic housing shortage, the government – incapable of escaping dangerous economic modes of thinking – ended up in a predicament where the multi-billionaire Denis O’Brien was holding the State to ransom over the unit cost of modular homes. In the end, with modular homes costing almost as much as permanent houses, the plan fell flat and no modular homes were built. No one got a home and the number of people on the homeless register continued to grow.

Talking with the homeless on the streets of Dublin is an education all of its own. You hear that the government cynically opens up more beds in shelters on the nights when voluntary homeless associations are conducting official counts of those sleeping rough. You hear that there are members of the Gardaí who routinely harass and even assault homeless men and women. You hear that there is no shortage of men who try to lure homeless women and girls back to their homes. You hear that their very presence in the city is criminalised; if they sit on the street they are arrested for “aggressive begging,” if they go to McDonalds’ they are told to leave and to stop “stinking up the place.”

Eddie, a young man living on the streets with his partner Amy, explained that the police want the homeless to be like cockroaches; “to disappear whenever the light is shone on them.” He and Amy know full well that the government are embarrassed by the homeless crisis. Those in power don’t want tourists and other foreign visitors seeing just how many people are without a home. Any rational person can see the solution here – deal with the crisis and get people back into houses. But this government wants to have its cake and eat it.

Neither Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil and Labour before have shown any serious commitment to tackling the homeless crisis, rather they have been content to have more people put out onto the streets and leave it to the law and the police to make the victims invisible. Hiding the problem – according to those on the street – involves the police using increasingly more violent means of shifting men, women, and children who really have nowhere else to go. Without exception, every single homeless person I have spoken to has mentioned police harassment or violence.

Eddie and Amy are Homeless in Dublin

Author: Jason Michael (@Jeggit)

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