Tuesday 17 September 2019

Fiona Cassim: 'The tragedy of homelessness no longer has any impact'

Fiona Cassim. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Fiona Cassim. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Fiona Cassim

If I were to list the injustices of this little nation, the governmental mistakes which have forced so many into homelessness, I would need a lot more than this page.

So let me start with this. Homelessness.

It's a word bandied around by the Government, the media, the people on the street.

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We talk about the housing crisis, we commiserate, we say how terrible it's become, but that word doesn't have a jolt any more, an impact.

But it should be a word with impact. A home is something everyone should have a right to, and it shouldn't come in the shape of a cardboard box or a shop doorway. To be homeless, to be part of an epidemic which has reached significant heights in only a few years, should surely be a lot more.

I have escaped homelessness several times by God's graces. I am 37 now and have yet to know my own home. This is a sadness I have chosen to put on the back burner for myself, but as I see the housing crisis developing into something much bigger than a crisis, I am crippled by the injustice, and forced to ask the question: why?

There is the obvious supply and demand issue. There is the problem of rents rising by 30pc since the Celtic Tiger, even in this time of great need. In Bray, a one- and two-bedroom social housing project was simply abandoned, while in Clondalkin another social housing project was also abandoned.

While the media tries to shine a light behind walls of shoddy democracy, I think about the man who died on the street in Dublin recently.

It is an indignity, a travesty, for a person who once had a life, a childhood, a chance. But he died, and the story received media coverage, people placed flowers as a tribute and TD Damien English described it as a "tragedy".

Yes, death is a tragedy, but at this time of year I think of the families stuffed into one bedroom, in an already full hotel or B&B; I think of the working women, trying to make their wages last, trying to feed their children in these rooms, trying to get their children to school.

I think of the entire families living in cars because the hotels and B&Bs are filled to capacity. These people are being forced out of their homes because of rising rents and I ask myself: have we time-travelled back to the 17th century?

How many more of these tragedies have to happen before something is done? People have become immune to homelessness, to dying on a street, to reading it in the paper, and then turning on their television to better news, news that won't touch them. There is no impact.

Governmental failure is only touched upon, when it should be spotlighted. The motion passed in early October to declare the housing crisis as a national emergency only serves to prove this. And the voices will only get louder.

Journalism is the medium in which so many injustices have been brought to public attention, and with that attention, stories receive the due attention that are not just deserved, but owed.

Irish Independent

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