Wednesday, July 06, 2016

On Being Homeless

Kerrie O'Brien is a young Dublin writer with a debut poetry collection launched on 6th October by its publisher Salmon, at Books Upstairs in Dublin.

She is a great lover of literature, and works in one of Dublin most iconic independent bookshops. She has been serving her writing apprenticeship of live and written practice seriously for many years.

She was recently led to creating a philanthropic project after feeling hopeless at the plight of the homeless problem in Dublin. To this end she is putting together a collection of poetry the profts of which will go to a homeless project. It is all voluntarily done, and the collection will be sold in Dublin bookshops.

The writing below is a reply to her Facebook update read earlier today.

She wrote: 'Going to have a piece about homelessness in Dublin on The Irish Times Women's Podcast.'


I emigrated to the Iveagh Trust homeless hostel after graduation from my home town uni, Edge Hill, Ormskirk bygone times, and it was perfect.

Height of the boom, first time living here, every day was an adventure and consecutively most days were better than the previous one. It really was perfect in that perfectly irish way of everything turning out grand. 

In england i had eff all all my life, and whatever i did turned to a rubbish mess. 

By 2001 when all my pals from home had good lives and careers, i was a 34 year old washed up nomark and full-time failure. I began by playing Malvolio at 14, and twenty years later was a fully confused British monkey. My life was literally a joke. Most homeless people end up feeling like complete failures when we have nowhere to live.

I am grand now, very secure. After leaving the Iveagh hostel and living in Kilmainham for years, with my name on a council list, I got an interview/audition, for a flat in the Iveagh Trust. And as soon as I said i was writing all day, the two people interviewing me looked at each other and I sensed then that may have been the thing that got me in.

Six years later, the homeless days before i began writing - and in doing so saved my life from one of penury and cerebral mess, existing trapped and silent, no voice, unexpressed; as one of just millions and millions of normal English working-class people in a community with no literary voice - are long behind me.

I had patches of homelessness bakowmin Blighty; that began in 1996 just before my twenty-ninth b'day. Beignton Spike, on the edge of ultra-depressing underbelly-class Sheffield. 

It was the lowest point of my life thus far, and the building had been transferred into local authority ownership and re-tooled from a half-way house run by the prison system, into three long open-dormitorys over two floors, each with thirty beds in them; and a ground floor vip area of coffin-sized cubicles and the privacy of one's own curtain.

Being werking-klaws i chose not the five but three star dorms with younger homeless cut-throats and 'the lads.' Great British lads, down on our luck. Druggies, alkies, dreamers, lost souls, petty habitual crooks, rehab exiters with a bunch of drink and drug money, and everyone fucking everyone else over. As an intelligent kind man from a normal family of immigrants (Irish) i learned some tricks in that kip.

Pretty grim to be fair. But the first several weeks i was there was one of those life-changing ones in which tho it was only six weeks; later I was a totally different person. For the better. It taught me that we are all the same. That it was my boozy chaotic life with the booze at the centre of it that had led to me being there. 

I recognised at that point we are all the same as human beings. From the heroin addict who has lost everything through their habit, to Enda Kenny, we are all human beings.

After six weeks of seeing and experiencing some horrible shit all around me in the hostel dorms, rather than sink, i floated, i rose, the experience put me at the lowest point of my life and after having enough i reached bottom and rose, stronger, wiser, more compassionate. And thought eff this, if i was gonna be homeless there had to be better places not as pitifully depressing than 'this', life in an ultra-rough-arse ultra-Yorkshire sh'thole on the edja Sheff.

Once i got used to the new reality, by July i was in Newquay, Cornwall, having the best summer I'd had since 1986 when I was hustling in Benidorm for four months with three pals, that ended up doing well and going home with loads of goodies in a new car, whilst I ended up bunking the train back to Liverpool from Alicante with fifty quid in my pocket. The cnuts!

Woman, was i so happy that my twenties ended on a re-affirmation of life. As gradually over that decade my dream of being an aktawray bore and vision of who I was, took a sustained ten year long battering that inevitably, slowly, sapped me of all but one spark of self-belief, and i ended them with non-existent self-esteem and no clue as to one's direction, realty, or true (Irish) identity.

All my childhood pals I am still friends with them now. Gehrayt werk dahling, keep up the good stuff. May we all live forever and never grow up, fall out or abandon to this world our love for one another, hide it behind the polite meaningless words we all speak without when within we are all aktawray draymurs mooing and tu-wit tu-wooing the angelic energies enveloping our lucky race of lepri- and unicorns with real names and faces.

Desmond Swords

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