It is a tale of two sides of the pandemic – while a group of construction workers basked in sunshine at Dublin’s Grand Canal, on the opposite bank their peers who lost their jobs sheltered in two tents.
As the three workers chatted and enjoyed the spring weather, across from them five men made attempts to tidy their ramshackle lives, as the human toll of Covid-19 lay bare for all to see.
Some 60,000 construction workers are out of work due to the Level 5 restrictions introduced in January.
Only 40pc of sites remain open as projects deemed essential by the Government.
While they enjoyed a moment of sunshine, the men in hardhats admitted they also worried about losing their jobs.
“I know one of the homeless men on the other side of the canal. I used to work on- site with him,” said one man.
“It’s sad to see him living like this. But I know around 70 construction workers who’ve lost their jobs and some of them are now homeless and others are at risk of homelessness.
“It’s a hard life but Covid-19 has made life in the construction industry cruel.”
Homeless man Philipe Talaj (36) told the Irish Independent he had been laid off and found himself unable to support himself.
“I had a job on a construction site but I lost it and I had to move out from my home,” he said.
“It’s very hard to find another job when you’re living like this and during Covid-19.
“I don’t worry about Covid, I worry about living like this.
“I just hope it ends soon. I hope I will get a job and a home soon. I love Dublin but things are very hard right now. There doesn’t seem an end in sight.”
Another of the homeless men, who did not want to be named, said he worked in construction until the pandemic hit and caused his site to close. He found himself on the streets several months ago.
“I lost my job at the start of Covid. I lost my home then too. I ended up on the streets and met friends here who’d been through the same.
“I was working on a site nearby but the building site was closed with Covid. There was nothing to do, so I started drinking and now I drink every day because there’s just nothing else.
“I’ve looked for somewhere to live but I can’t find anything. I don’t want to go into the hostels because I’ve seen drugs being taken there and violence.
“I was busy before, I had a life and now I feel like I have nothing, so I just drink. I won’t take drugs though, no matter what.
“I want to go back to work, to find a new home, to have a life, something to do. The virus has caused a lot of damage to my life.
“It’s funny looking across the canal. We were like those lads not long ago.”
A construction worker on the other side of the canal sipped a fizzy drink and smoked as he looked across the water at the two tents.
“I know an awful lot of my friends are out of work,” he said.
“I’d say a good 70pc of people I know are out of work. I think Covid-19 is a major problem for the industry but it makes me sad to see guys who were in the industry out on the streets."
He said many construction workers do not have contracts “so they’re easy to let go in the pandemic”.
“We are at work but even our own lives are sad. We’re agency workers and we don’t have holiday pay, we don’t get sick pay. And we could be let go like that and in a very bad position too.”
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