Homeless reality check: Festive dinner in a tent off O’Connell St

Couple lived in hostels but after one incident, Anthony Quinn says will never stay in one again

Anthony and Michelle have been living in a tent off O'Connell Street since before Christmas. Despite being in a relationship for over 15 years they haven't been able to get a couples room in emergency accommodation.

 

Anthony Quinn and Michelle Kavanagh ate Christmas dinner in a tent near O’Connell Street this year - but say this is the best they can do until they find a permanent home.

The pair met 15 years ago and lived in a flat in Summerhill, Dublin city, for about 10 years.

When the landlord sold up, they say, “we more or less had to leave”.

They stayed in another property for about three months, owned by the same landlord, but that didn’t work out either and they found themselves on the streets.

They were in and out of homeless hostels for two or three years, but after an incident last November, Mr Quinn said he would never stay in hostel accommodation again.

“I was robbed of my phone and my money - €80,” he says.

‘Scratching all the time’

“I didn’t even get into the bed because I was told that the people who had been using the bed were scratching all the time.

“So I just lay on the bed and put my jacket over me. While I was asleep someone was actually going through my jacket and they got my phone and my money.”

Gardaí got the phone back, but not the money, Mr Quinn says. He adds that Ms Kavanagh had also had bad experiences with hostels, mostly concerning the level of drug use there.

“When I got robbed I said to Michelle, ‘I’m not doing this any more’. We’re supposed to be safe, the staff are supposed to be watching us 24/7, and yet there are people able to walk into my room while I’m sleeping and go through all my pockets.

“It’s not nice to think that while you’re asleep someone is able to do that.”

So now the couple are living in a tent near O’Connell Street in Dublin’s inner city. Despite the challenges this brings, they say it is preferable to the hostel system.

“The hostels would be like this: I’d get a place somewhere, then Michelle would ring up and she’d get offered a sleeping bag.

“I’m not going to leave her out on the streets with a sleeping bag, especially nowadays.

‘Tried to grab her’

“Even the tent that we’re in - last week she was in it on her own and someone reached in and tried to grab her out of the tent.

“But she still tells me she feels more at ease in the tent because you don’t have to look or keep one eye open all the time. And with the hostel, you go in at 8 o’clock at night and then you’re thrown out at 8 o’clock in the morning to wander the streets for the day.”

Mr Quinn says a typical day now involves chatting to the taxi drivers on a nearby rank who, he says, have been very good to him and Ms Kavanagh.

“We just try to do what we can do in the day. We can’t really leave the tent on its own because people would come and take whatever little bits that we have.

“So if we have to go to the same place I’d have to fly there first and then fly back, and then she’d have to run to the same place then.

“But the taximen have been great to us. If anyone went near the tent they would be saying get away from it.”

Urgent waiting list

He says they have been told they are on an urgent accommodation waiting list, but that’s been the case for months.

On Christmas Eve they had Christmas dinner in their tent.

“We got it off the soup run: a bit of ham and turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes. But it’s a reality check, when you’re sitting in a bleeding tent eating your Christmas dinner.”