Simon Community

19 Nov

The Simon Community is a group made up of Dublin residents who deliver food, hot drinks and clothing to the homeless in Dublin. Members of the organization or others who support the organization donate all the money that buys the products.  Last Tuesday I volunteered to do a soup run for the first time. The experience opened my eyes to a world of homelessness full of sadness, deceit and even choice.  

After exchanging greetings and having a bit of banter with the rest of the volunteers I set off with my two partners, Emma and Rebecca. They have each been volunteering at The Simon Community for three years.  In no time we spotted our first recipient. Sitting on cardboard, head buried in between his knees, a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, a homeless man struggled to keep warm. Rebecca was so kind and gentle in the way she spoke to him. He ended up taking a sandwich, soup, a cup of coffee, and a pair of socks. We said goodbye and on we went. And on he stayed. It was sad. I wondered what happened in his life that he ended up homeless.  I wondered if he was comfortable being homeless, but his frown said he wasn’t. I wanted to ask but didn’t have the courage. I doubt it would have been appropriate anyway. This is how I imagined the homeless would look.

Next we came across a Roma girl no older than sixteen. She had a smile on her face from the moment she saw us and probably long after we left. I don’t know if she was on drugs, but Emma attributed her laughter to the funniness of the language barrier.  The girl accepted the food and coffee but did not need clothing.  Then we saw a Roma boy who was at most thirteen. It dawned on me that this was organized begging. It’s possible that they were not homeless at all, and that the boy and girl’s family put them up to the task of retrieving food from us by pretending to be homeless. I asked Rebecca to name something positive about Roma. She couldn’t think of anything to say besides, “Their dresses are colorful.” I’m still not sure how I feel about it. It’s as if the children are mere tools to the parents. There is a disconnect between parents and children deeply rooted in Roma culture. I wonder if the hierarchal structure of Roma families leads to a culture stuck in a cycle of begging and negativity. Begging children leads to a future generation of begging children. 

Finally we met our last recipient of the day. Gavin is as bright a homeless man I will ever meet. From listening to him speak with Rebecca and Emma for five minutes I could tell he was no ordinary homeless man. He was homeless by choice. Rebecca said that Gavin was unwilling to conform to society’s expectations of getting a job and beginning a family. He marched to the beat of his own drum, though it would not be a beat I’d like to march to. I suppose if he is happy then that’s all that matters. He certainly had his wits about him. I expect intelligence is something Gavin thinks important even if he uses it philosophically rather than practically. I intend to find out more about his story next time we cross paths.

The soup run was my first experience dealing directly with the homeless. It made a lasting impression and taught me that not all homeless people are deadbeats or lazy. Some are forced to be there. Some prefer to be.  It is important to remember that every person you cross on the street has their faults, strengths and stories – even the homeless.

You can check out Simon Community’s website to find out more about our mission and effort here: http://www.dubsimon.ie/

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