Our feature on homeless women in STELLAR's February issue made harrowing reading – here's how you can help.
STELLAR’s February issue included an interview with two women – Linda, who was homeless for 20 years, and Amy*, who is currently homeless and HIV positive, living on the streets. We covered a range of problems that are specific to homeless women, and explored the issues that very often lead to a woman sleeping rough.
We know that a lot of you will have been affected by the piece and want to know how to help alleviate our homelessness problem. Here are just a few things you can do to make a difference.
One of the biggest issues affecting Ireland’s homeless people today is the feeling of isolation and marginalisation they experience, living on the streets. People walk or sit for hours without interacting with another human being, and Linda related to us how, in her opinion, “you don’t have any friends on the streets.” She spoke with great emotion about how touching it was when people would stop and talk to her. So, the next time you see a homeless person begging, don’t avert your gaze. Don’t want to give them any money? Fine. Say “no, sorry”. Don’t simply ignore them as if they’re not there.
Homeless charities such as Focus Ireland and Dublin Simon Community are always looking for help, whether that’s collecting funds, assisting in the charity’s shops, helping with adult education or outreach. You could even find a volunteering role that’s specific to your experience and skills, and find it a fulfilling way to spend some of your spare time while also bulking up your CV and, y’know, giving back. It’s a win-win.
The jury is out on whether you should – or shouldn’t – give money to homeless people. We reckon it’s at your own discretion; if you have some spare change, and you feel like it would make a difference to them, then go ahead. Fr Peter McVerry of the Father Peter McVerry Trust agrees with us that acknowledging the person is the most important thing, and then suggests that buying food would be a positive step. If you see someone who’s suffering, sleeping rough or begging on a bridge, and you have both the time and the money, offering to buy them a cup of tea and a sandwich will never be a bad thing.
*name has been changed
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