herald

Friday 15 December 2017

'I know what it is like to be homeless'

Homelessness volunteer Declan O'Connell has first hand experience of sleeping on the streets.

Declan (38) was without a home for almost a year during the height of the boom years.

He faced the prospect of sheltering in a doorway when his landlord gave a month's notice.

Declan battled for a place in rental accommodation against thousands of others.

"It was in August and I discovered how many students look for accommodation at that time of the year," he said. "I had the money for a deposit and for a month's rent in advance. But the difficulty I had was with rent allowance -- nobody would accept it."

Declan immediately approached Focus Ireland for assistance and they put him on the right track.

"There's a Catch 22 when you try to register as being homeless," he said. "They can't register you until you have a postal address -- but how can you have a postal address if you are homeless?"

Focus Ireland assist those who find themselves on the street and provide them with a temporary address to register with the local council.

But Declan, originally from Templeogue, said that there is still a stigma attached to homelessness.

"People become homeless for a lot of different reasons -- very few are from alcohol and drugs," he said.

After he found accommodation through Focus Ireland, Declan volunteered his time and skills at the organisation. He has been happily settled in a home of his own for the last few years.

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