Published date16 September 2023
Publication titleIrish Times (Dublin, Ireland)
“Are you sleeping here?” asks Roisin Casey, the outreach service supervisor with Dublin Simon’s outreach team. She and her colleague Elvira Merello are both wearing black anoraks with Dublin Simon printed on them. The young woman gestures down at the cardboard as though to say: “Isn’t it obvious?” But she just says: “I am.”

Merello recognises her and says her name. “You remember me?” says the young woman. She wonders whether she can get a bed for the night. Merello checks the Dublin Simon system. “You are on the system which is good news,” she says. She makes a call to see if something can be found for her.

I tell her I’m a journalist, along to observe. “I’ve been observing as well, to understand what the other side of the road is like,” says the young woman. “They are stuck in their drug using, addiction. The poor things.”

Ana* is 29 and came to Ireland to study English nine years ago. Since then, she has worked for a technology company, as a barista, as a cleaner and as a teacher. “I got lucky enough to find a person. We were young. Got married. Lived together. Shared bills. But then I was depressed by the commodity, the comfort. We have everything here. Nothing is missing. We have money. We have food. We can travel.” She stops.

Her marriage broke up, she says. “If I wasn’t able to keep up the marriage there is something wrong. It broke up in a horrible way. One of the reason I came to the streets was to find out what is the real me. That’s why this is nothing at all to me.” There are tears in her eyes. “Because I am angry and upset.”

While she was going through all of this, she let her immigration paperwork lapse. “I’m scared as sh*t to be around without [the papers]. I am like a person without land.”

How long has she lived like this? “It’s my seven-month anniversary today. And it feels like just a day to be honest with you. You don’t feel the time going by. Every day feels the same, even though it’s different and full of emotions.”

What does she do every day? “Walking a lot. Bathroom. Basic needs. Getting cold and stuff like that, but that only makes us stronger, I guess.”

As a woman alone on the street, she’s often frightened. “The disgust towards the women,” she says sadly. “There’s a lot of people walking around in the night. They come for smokes and sometimes I don’t know how to deal with them because the culture is so different.”

Why is she in this part of the city? “Here I feel more comfortable, at the moment. I like this street. I also like Grafton Street. Also, Smithfield.”

Does she feel safer here? “I feel safe because I am on my own.” She pauses for a moment. “I don’t go for my documents because I’m not fully myself and I don’t want them. I don’t know what I would do. I’d have to get a job. I’d have to sleep in again.”

You prefer this? “Yes. For now, even though it’s a mix of feelings inside. The reason I came to the street was that I needed to heal. You don’t need to be with anyone, just be comfortable with yourself.”


Casey and Merello say someone will come to check on Ana later in the evening. The outreach time operates from 7am until 1am, and in the evenings two teams of four staff check on rough sleepers and respond to alerts from the Dublin Rough Sleeper app, often posted by members of the...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT