A Night With Simon Community

16 Mar

Jason turns 39 next week. He has a 7 year old daughter who lives with her grandparents in Spain. Her name is Lucille and she is fond of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Jason worked as a security guard for years, but has an artistic vein in him. He once painted a full story mural.

Jason slept on the cold red bricks of Grafton Street last night.

David is from Lithuania. I told him that I had an ex-boyfriend named David, and he quickly let me know that unfortunately he was off the market, but if not I would totally be on his radar. We offered him some gloves but he told us to give them to someone else who needs them more since he had some already.

We didn’t stop to talk to Jack since he told us he had already been setup for the night. And let me tell you he had the hook up. Fluffy sleeping bag, small pillow, hot tea, book at the ready. He had a huge smile on his face and wished us well. As we walked along the ladies told me that he had been around for years. This past Christmas he wrote them all Christmas cards.

These are some of the people had the pleasure of meeting last night on the Simon Community’s nightly soup run. It’s basically exactly what it sounds like, groups of 2 or 3 will run routes through the city and offer up soup, tea, sandwiches, and biscuits. They also bring along some warm clothes and ponchos if it’s raining. They do this every night, all 365 days of the year.

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I was struck by the sense of community not only amongst the homeless, but between the Simon’s volunteers and their usual soup customers. You know all of us gossip! Teardrop John hasn’t been heard much from since his best friend overdosed.  Shamrock John however, is still around. Crabby Christie is just as crabby as ever and Sam just got back with the ex-girlfriend.

Of course it wasn’t all candy and rainbows. We came across a trio that included a pretty strung out woman who kept saying “where’s my baby gone” over and over; a man who was extremely unhappy with us for not having a more masculine pair of gloves, and a woman who vented about her drug addiction, which she was anything but ashamed of, and how she couldn’t get healthcare for her infection because of her label of “drug addict”. Little comments like hers raise a lot of social and political questions. Shouldn’t everyone have access to basic healthcare? But what if that actively engage in illegal activity? What is considered “basic healthcare” anyways?

But just to put it into perspective for the folks back home: Simon’s community reported contact with 4,700 rough sleepers last year. In comparison, the 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, guesstimates approximately 30,000 homeless in Texas (the 4th highest ranking state in the U.S). Now, these figures can’t totally be taken at face value because I don’t know how the U.S survey defined “homelessness”. But regardless, don’t think that inequality and homelessness is a “foreign problem” for “other countries”.  We have a responsibility to confront this problem.

Citizens of Ireland and the United States have historically held similar ethics when it comes to poverty. Both of our countries value the family unit and have historically tasked the family to handle such matters. Both Catholic (Irish) and Protestant (USA) based cultures promote the responsibility of the family and community (often specifically the church). Both cultures tend hold the ideal that if someone works hard enough, they can build a life for themselves. Both countries pride themselves on working hard, and there is shame in not having work. Although these are good ethics to hold, I think sometimes it can blind people to the cyclical problem of poverty. I don’t know the ins and outs of Irish social policy, but I know historically the churches were the primary homeless relief programs. The same exists in America. However, since the Great Depression, both countries have welcomed more state intervention. Thankfully, I think both of our countries are starting to understand that some people get stuck and need state assistance. There is a balance that both our governments are trying to find.  

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