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Thursday 29 September 2016

One of the biggest aspects of 'normal life' that homeless people miss is 'eye contact'

Mark McConville and Denise Calnan

Published 24/12/2015 | 03:00

One of the biggest aspects of 'normal life' that homeless people miss is 'eye contact', a charity has revealed.

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Charity worker Martina Bergin said the solution is "as simple as saying hello".

The Dublin Simon Community member said clients regularly tell the charity they miss being acknowledged by passers-by.

"One thing a client would always say to us is what they miss is the eye contact, someone just saying hello or looking them in the eye," Martina, who works with the rough sleeper team, told Independent.ie.

"So just to acknowledge them, they are people at the end of the day.

"You don’t have to give them money, just say hello, it’s as simple as it is," she added.

Martina began working with the rough sleeper team five years ago and said the numbers of homeless people on the streets has been steadily increasing since then.

She said the overnight counts are regularly hitting record heights.

"When I started working with the rough sleeping team, I remember going out on the streets and we’d get 29 rough sleeping that was a lot back then and couldn’t believe the numbers.

"And then the numbers started to creep up," she continued.

"Last year we hit 108 and that was the highest I have ever seen and then this September we hit 130.

"Our counts take around one hours and 30 minutes, so it’s only a snippet of the city."

Martina blames a lack of 'move-on options' for the rise in numbers of people sleeping rough on the capital's streets.

A backlog in numbers trying to move into private rented accommodation after emergency accommodation could also be blamed.

"Most emergency accommodation that’s in the city is for 6 months," she said.

"And they have key workers that should be moving them on to private rented.

"But private rented there’s nothing available so there’s a backlog. So people that are staying in accommodation aren’t being able to move on, so people who are rough sleeping can’t move in."

The charity also monitors people's health, with a mobile health unit operating three nights a week, including a female-only clinic.

The soup-run and the rough sleeper team will be on the streets Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Stephen's Day.

"Our service operates 365 days a year, so we are out and about and we will link in with anyone who is rough sleeping," Martina said.

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