Róisín Ingle: The day I slept rough in Dublin

Five years ago, Keith Harrington showed me a day in the life of a homeless person. He died three years later

Keith Harrington, pictured in 2011. He was found dead in a Dublin laneway in 2014. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Keith Harrington, pictured in 2011. He was found dead in a Dublin laneway in 2014. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Five years ago, researching a story on homelessness, I met Keith Harrington and his friend Carlo, who lived on the Dublin streets. They offered to show me what a day in the life of a homeless person with addiction problems was like.

It was a cold and chaotic 24 hours in March that ended with the three of us lugging cardboard from outside the Ann Summers shop on O’Connell Street down to the Department of Social Protection on Amiens Street in the early hours of the morning. We camped at the top of a wheelchair ramp outside the office block.

Keith measured out the cardboard and decided where we would all sleep. He even made me a cardboard pillow “because you wouldn’t be used to this”.

Keith told me he woke up one day to find someone urinating on him.

He said anyone could end up homeless, that for some people it is only a couple of pay packets away. That’s why he didn’t understand why people looked down their noses at him.

Nobody could enjoy sleeping outside the department. You do it because you are desperate and because it’s the least bad option. You do it because you are homeless like Carlo.

But not Keith, not any more. Three years later, he was found dead in a laneway off Abbey Street. He was 27.