Rising rents: Working in tech by day, homeless by night

Homelessness is ‘one of the most violent, drug-oriented experiences of my life’


Each night at 10.30pm John* packs up his belongings in work and calls the homeless services freephone number.

There’s no point in calling at 4.30pm because beds for the night disappear so quickly. If he works late and holds out for a later slot, he is more likely to find a last-minute opening.

John has been sleeping in homeless shelters for nearly two months. Before this summer he had never been homeless.


However, a combination of bad luck and a misunderstanding over his payday left him searching for a place to sleep every night.

“I’ve ended up in a homeless situation and it’s one of the most violent, drug-oriented experiences of my life. Before this I’d always had my own place. Before [this job] I usually got paid every two weeks so I thought I’d be fine when I started.”

John arrived back in Dublin earlier this summer after nearly a year living in the UK with his mother. He had arranged to stay with a friend temporarily while he settled into his new job as a tech analyst and planned to find a place to rent after the first pay check came through.

He did not expect to have to wait three months for his first payment and began running out of funds.

“I am contracted on what is known as a ninety-day invoice so my pay has been delayed for some time. I was staying with a friend but that fell through at the beginning of the summer.

Now, he spends each night struggling to sleep in a noisy, uncomfortable and often unsafe environment.

“In some places you have lockers but if you don’t, you wrap up your belongings under your head. There are guys who will rip that pillow out from under you and it’s scary as can be.”

Drug-usage is rampant across all the hostels, according to John who recently witnessed a man injecting drugs into his groin while queuing for a bed for the night.

“You go into the toilets and there’s blood everywhere. There are a lot of facilities for homeless people in Dublin but it’s so drug and violence oriented.

“ It’s so blatant and unavoidable, so heavy and in your face. I know there are reasons why it’s permitted but it’s crazy. I’d had no exposure to that kind of world before.”

John prefers to stay at the Merchant’s Quay homeless centre which has more staff and where people sleep on mattresses in a large hall. He feels far more vulnerable when staying in a small, enclosed dorm.

John says the smell in the hostels is putrid. “I always bring an extra tracksuit top and wrap the arm around my eyes and nose. The lights stay on all night and guys stay up all night but I need to work in the morning.”John’s friends and family think he is renting temporarily through Airbnb. His work colleagues do not know he often spends his nights sleeping in a crowded, noisy hall on the quays. His belongings are in storage.

“I’m 42. I can’t tell my sister I have no money. I’ve been living like this for more than eight weeks now but know that I’ll be paid soon. You can get very down but at least I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. But you also get very angry, especially when you’re being intimidated.

“Every single time you walk into the hostel you think ‘I cannot believe I’m doing this every night’. At least I can see a way out. If I was stuck in this I would go mad.”

John says there are others like him with jobs that are sleeping in homeless shelters temporarily while they try to find affordable housing.

“There are a couple of Eastern European guys who work in warehouses and there’s people who desperately want a job so they can get somewhere stable. Quite a sizeable proportion of people in the homeless service do not have a drug or alcohol problem, they just got there through bad luck. And every one of them is scared witless.”

“The whole service is at breaking point and the needs of this vulnerable community deserve to be heard.”

John says he is grateful to the numerous charities across the capital that have helped him over the summer with food and clothing.

He remains optimistic that his first pay check will come through next month and he will find a place to live. After that, he plans to volunteer with the city’s homeless services in his free time.

“The volunteers are great. They give up their free time even though they get dog’s abuse. It’s my intention to try and help out.”

*A pseudonym has been used to protect the identity of this man who has not told friends and family about his current situation

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast