Wednesday 22 November 2017

Art imitates life on the street for actor

Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

ACTOR Glenn Gannon, who plays a homeless man in the forthcoming movie 'Danny', is himself a former businessman who became homeless. The former retailer now volunteers for the Simon Community, which he says kept him alive and helped him to pick himself up off the streets.

Here he tells his story.

"I had a reasonably successful discount store in the Liberties. It was high turnover and low margins. We had ladies' and gents' fashions, schoolbags in for September, Santa stuff at Christmas.

"After about two years, I was broken into and they cleaned me out. Then the same thing happened again -- they drove a car through the shutters. The damage cost a load and all my stock for the summer was gone.

"I'd been having trouble at home and had been drinking at weekends but I started drinking more. My father died and that was it. I had a breakdown.

"I handed my keys to the landlord, gave my stock back as payment to the wholesaler, paid what debts I could and walked away.

"On the Saturday, I arrived to the church with my da inside in a coffin. I went to the offie and stocked up. I spent that weekend in the church grounds, drinking. Two homeless guys found me and covered me with a coat.

"They took me to a charity shop to buy a suit so I'd look presentable and they sobered up and went with me to the funeral.

"I spent my days living under bridges and drinking. I stayed away from normal people because they're dangerous when you're homeless. You'll get a kick in the head from some young fella who didn't get into a club.

"At night I had to tuck my trousers into my socks to stop the rats getting in there. You never really sleep when you're on the streets because it's not safe.

"Eventually I was down to seven stone. Normally I'd go up to the nuns at quarter to six in the morning and they'd give me a sandwich and a cup of tea.

"One of the nuns told me I was getting worse and persuaded me to detox and then go to Cuan Mhuire, a centre run by the nuns in Athy. A man called Brendan Dunne, who collects for St Vincent De Paul outside St Agnes Church, took me to Athy on his weekend off.

"At Cuan Mhuire it was hard work and clean living -- I worked in the gardens. After nine months I left but I started drinking again. I was suicidal -- only existing.

"I went to my ex-wife. I was in a state -- long hair, beard, clothes in bits. She allowed me take the box room if I didn't drink. I detoxed again. It was hell.

"I went to counselling and enrolled in a course at the Aishling Centre. There Christine Buckley said, 'You look like an actor' -- and put me on a drama course. Then one day I was on set with Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore."

Irish Independent

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