Wednesday 18 September 2019

'We would have been nowhere without them' - couple thank homeless charity for support during time they lived in a tent

Gabija Gataveckaite

A couple rebuilding their lives after four years of homelessness have thanked a charity for their support during the time they lived in a tent.

Speaking at a visual protest outside of Dublin City Council this afternoon, Wesley Condon and Synthia Klawa, who are engaged to be married, spoke out about their own experiences with homelessness. 

Tents were put up by the homeless charity Inner City Helping Homeless outside the council to highlight rising numbers of rough sleepers and Mr Condon and Ms Klawa attended to show their support for the charity.

“We were in a tent for two years,” Mr Condon told Independent.ie.

“These people used to come to us at 2 in the morning, offering a hot cup of tea or hot cup of soup and it was like you had someone to talk to, because you were nearly invisible, the charity treated you like you were a human being.”

“Inner City Helping Homeless were great because they would give you clean clothes, if your tent was wrecked they’d give you a new tent and sleeping bags. Often, your tent would get burned or cut by people going by,” Mr Condon added. 

The couple now live in a hostel together and are currently attending a course so they can rebuild their lives in “baby steps”.

However, Ms Klawa still knows how the people on the streets feel. 

“I just remember when I was in the tent it was awful like, all our things got wet when it rained,” she said.

“Then you need to go to Focus Ireland, get a new sleeping bag and get some dry clothes and go rough sleep,” she said.

Inner City Helping Homeless, Councillor Anthony Flynn. Credit: Mick Carolan
Inner City Helping Homeless, Councillor Anthony Flynn. Credit: Mick Carolan

“I see the people that don’t have the tent or sleeping bags and when I go by and it rains I feel terrible because I was in the same situation,” she added.

The protest was held by Inner City Helping Homeless, a charity which provides support for the homeless. CEO of the charity Councillor Anthony Flynn outlined how the number of rough sleepers has hit an all time high.

"We saw yesterday a Deliveroo driver sleeping rough in a tent that was pictured by a fellow councillor,” he explained.

“We had the highest ever recorded number of rough sleepers on Monday night, which was 238, which is totally unacceptable.

“We haven’t got the will to end homelessness and we don’t believe that the council are working to end homelessness,” he added.

Sandra Browne (60) was homeless for eight years. 

“I know exactly what goes on in homelessness, I walked the streets, I lived on the streets, you’re not regarded as being homeless," she said.

“The cause of homelessness is also from the Dublin City Council themselves, they play a huge role,” she added.

“Where I live now, they put older men and women in bed-sits, what’s that about?

“I feel devastated, even now. They left me devastated. When you have no home you have nothing, you have no base. You can’t wash properly, you can’t go to the toilet, you don’t sleep.”

Kieran Prizeman, who volunteers with Feeding the Homeless, was also homeless and lives in Dublin 8.

“It’s never been this bad,” he said.

“Social housing and affordable housing is needed for people who need basic housing and have kids, you can’t bring a child up on the streets in this day and age. 

“I was volunteering giving out food with the group in College Green and there was kids five or six years of age, couldn’t get the food into their mouths quick enough,” he added.

“My priority is my kids, four kids and youngest is five, he has vision impairments and has cataracts. I have a roof over my head thanks to the council and I’m really grateful for that because at the end of the day, kids need a home to live in,” he said. 

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