This is a story about a young man who was homeless. A man, David Bissett, whose life at that point, in his early twenties, had descended so far that he was shuffling between homeless shelters on the streets of Dublin. At this his weakest moment he got a phone call. Hindsight tells us that phone call probably saved his life. But hindsight is a devil to appreciate in the present moment, for it was not a conversation that many would’ve interpreted as life saving at the time.
David Bissett was about to take full custody of his 3 year old daughter. Homeless, jobless and adrift from the world. A young Dubliner in the grips of and struggling with a myriad of addictions.
It is not a simple story, nor a short one either. It requires a little investment of your time. But like me you might learn a thing or two about a thing or two. There have been mistakes aplenty along the way. Blind alleys and Cul-de-Sacs. Self inflicted wounds on occasion. But undoubtedly the success shines brighter for the struggle.
Before I begin, I must admit I keep coming back to this phone call in my mind. What resonates is that in the moment of his life when he was most down on his luck and down on his knees David still tried to walk. And there is inspiration in that.
Yes, David Bissett was a pill popper, a Marijuana addict and an alcoholic. A homeless person. But crucially he was also a man who ran towards a daughter he was not equipped to raise. And not away.
David Bissett was a pre-teen soccer fanatic who Everton football club were interested in bringing over on a trial. It is fitting that football should feature prominently in this Interview, for 20 years later, in 2017, David captained Ireland at the Homeless World cup in Norway. In many ways this is the story of his journey in between.
He’s a much changed and stronger man today. Someone you’d be happy to call a friend. Someone Marian I’m sure is proud to call her dad. But even today Life continues to offer it’s tests. On Monday David received an eviction notice to vacate the apartment he and his daughter call home. From the street to recovery to captaining your country. And the state offers as a reward what?
An invitation to more homelessness?
This is David’s story. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
David: When I was younger I kinda had a dream to play professionally in football. I was always driven by that. I think football from an early age was an escape from life. I was a bit of a worrier growing up.
G: Where did you grow up.
David: I grew up in Inchicore in Dublin. Football was an escape from the worrying. I played at a good level till around 17. I played with St Pats until Under 13 and then I went to Belvedere over in the North Side. They would have been the biggest and the best club at the time. I would have played in the Kennedy cup. The biggest school-boy tournament. I think I was half way through the season and I picked up an injury and tore my ligaments over in Fairview Park. Looking back that’s when things started to go down hill. I was one of these people that like a good feeling. Being the best at something always gave me that good feeling. For the first time in my life I experienced the loss of that
G: Ligament injuries are not easy to come back from especially back then?
They’re not, They’re not. I was looking at 3 or 4 months out. I didn’t have the coping skills of finding another way of making myself feel good about myself. I started experimenting with alcohol and cigarettes.
G: And how old were you at this age?
David: I was 14 or 15 yeah. At the time …Everton had contacted the club and said they were interested in looking at me. That was a couple of weeks before the injury. So that was put on hold when I got hurt. Unfortunately for me …I kept playing….but I don’t think I recovered from the injury as I should have. I wasn’t as committed for some reason. I stayed playing football but I wasn’t getting that feeling that I was getting before. Because I wasn’t excelling at it.
I was going thru bad patches at school at the same time. There was a big deterioration in my behavior not just in football but school and life too..I came from a working class area of Dublin. An area where a lot of the people that people looked up to had money. They were probably doing the wrong things rather than the right things to get it.
Me and my core group of friends I suppose we were like a flock of sheep. You follow the flock. Unfortunately that’s the way it went. I didn’t last in school and left at the Junior Cert. I was asked to leave the school just before the Junior Cert. I left Belvedere as well at this time and moved back to Cherry Orchard. I was turning up hungover. I kinda had lost that drive.
G: It must be hard at the time to realise you are veering off the right path. Looking back you can kind of see it. But when your a kid it’s probably not too easy to see?
G: I had a very similiar injury to you when I was a bit older. 17. I can empathize especially with the aftermath.
David: There wasn’t as much support at the time. Strength coaches and people with a background in psychology. I’m looking at it now with what my own daughter has. She plays. I’m her coach and she has three other coaches. I couldn’t build my mentality to be strong enough after I came back.
My behaviour continued to worsen. I had bits of jobs and I even went back to school to try and complete the Leaving. But I suppose even when I was at work I didn’t want to work. I wanted the money but I didn’t want to be in work. I’d rather be in the pub. So I lost my job. But I think I went back to school for the wrong reasons.
G: At this stage what were the developing addictions?
David: Alcohol, cigarettes and cannabis and dabbling in other types of drugs. I just had the wrong mentality. I got into a slump and couldn’t get out of it.
G: Tell me more about this period between leaving school and then going back?
David: I got my first job at 15, and 16/17 I went back and done my Leaving Cert. I got thru the Leaving cert. I detached a little bit from old friends. A little bit now. I stop smoking Cannabis for 7 or 8 months but I was still drinking cans every night of the week. It was like swapping one thing for the other. I ended up getting another job after the Leaving Cert. And that was going really well for the first couple of months. But like everything in my story things would go well for the first while until I would get bored or something else would get in the way. I lasted in the job for a year but for the last 4 months the quality of the work was way down.
G: What type of job was that?
David: A general operative in a warehouse. When I left school I was thinking of becoming a youth and community worker. At 19 I was thinking of going to college and again fear and insecurity got in the way.
G: I grew up in the countryside and I suppose I’m just trying to get a handle on growing up in your environment. Was going to College and stuff like that a norm for people in your group.
David: No. All my friends would have been working from 14 and 15. They would have all left school early. Now I went back to school and even that was weird to my friends at the time.
G: So It wouldn’t be unfair to say that there has always been a part of your psyche to kind of break out of the restrictions of your environment if that’s the right way of saying it?
David: Yeah.Yeah.. But I suppose there were always fears and anxieties. Overwhelmed. End up making that not happen. So all my friends were earning and in the end I just wanted to do what my friends did. So I took the easy option which wasn’t the best option for me. And that’s the way it went for me for a good period. Things were rapidly deteriorating, I had started dabbling in prescription drugs…So I can see why my job was suffering.
I had met a girl to early on. We fell in love and we were both young. I was 20/21 at the time. She would have been a member of the travelling community. My parents didn’t mind me going out with her and there was talk of marriage but they definitely didn’t buy into that.
It was probably as difficult on her end of things with her own family as well I’m sure?
David: Oh 100% 100%. Look I would have met her through family connections and played football with some of her relatives. And that would have been how we kinda of got together. About a year later we got married in June when I was 21. In March we had a daughter Marian. Look we were young and we were happy at the time. But when I look back at things I think I was looking for someone to look after me rather than looking for a marriage if you know what I mean. I did love the girl absolutely but maybe it was more I was looking for someone to look after me. To do my cleaning and cooking. I think I got married for the wrong reasons. There was a rebellious streak in me. If someone told me not to do something I’d probably go off and do the opposite. That was because of usage of drinks and drugs. There was so much delusion going on in my mind.
G: Even if none of that was going…It’s very young to be getting married…It’s very young to be too hard on mistakes you made maybe ?
Ah yeah I suppose. But that was just the beginning of the addiction to take grip on me. I had a problem but it deteriorated more and more as I got comfortable in life. You know having a wife and a kid. I just got progressively worse. I had nothing to do and that’s the lifestyle I chose.
I’m a person who likes to be active today. Look things didn’t work and I know today that I wasn’t happy in terms of me going against all my morals and everything. And the way I dealt with that was to escape further into and continue to take prescription pills and drink. It was just a vicious cycle. I could wake in the morning and promise myself I wasn’t going to take anything. But 5 o’clock that afternoon I’d be after taking something.
G: When you say prescription medications was this stuff that was prescribed for you?
David: No I’d be buying it off the street or I’d be buying someone else’s prescription. That progressively got worse along with drink and cannabis. Look the marriage didn’t last and we basically split up. Not long after this I ended up homeless. I wasn’t paying the rent in the house. We had split up and we were going our separate ways on payments and stuff like that. I ended up in a hostel in town with nowhere else to go. Going from hostel to hostel. Then one day I got a phone call off my ex’s sister. I’m going to drop Marian to your Mams….can you meet me there. And I’ve had my daughter ever since. She was 3 at the time and she’ll be 12 in March.
G: That seems like a very rapid descent from break-up to the streets?
David: There’s a bit I skipped over with the homelessness and some of our problems maybe. Her mother died. It’ll be 10 years this year. On St Patrick’s day and we basically found out that day that we were going to have a second child. We celebrated that night with her Mam. A happy time in our lives and might make more sense to you about how the relationship broke down quickly and I ended up homeless. We had a few drinks that night and her mother was found dead in the bed the next morning. We were all in the house. I suppose from being so happy the night before and happy about having a second child and to the tragedy of that. She had lost an Aunt just three months before who we were close to as well. Within a week of losing her Mother she had a miscarriage. There was just a lot going on for us to deal with together. I don’t think we were able to speak about it properly to each other. There might have been an element of blaming each other without us saying it to each other you know. Massive miscommunication, and hurt.
G: Absolutely. Sure these are massive life issues that we all struggle to cope with. Not to mention if you’re leaning into your addictions to help you cope?
David: And from the lifestyle I had lived I had never built up the coping skills to deal with such tragedy. No matter what I’ve spoken to you about up to now there has been nothing more challenging than once I got my daughter on my own.
I suppose I was the type of man who wanted a mother and I wanted stuff done for me. I wasn’t capable of doing A,B and C. And now I had this three year old girl at my door. I had treated my parents terribly for many many years and all of a sudden I come back and I’m in a mess. And now I have a child with me on top of that. So I was kind of like can you take her or help me?
Again it was kinda like me again not accepting the responsibility. Look I did want to but I just didn’t believe I could do it. My Mam said Look you can stay here for a couple of days but you will have to go and get yourself sorted. And I was homeless. It meant that initially I had to bring Marian into Homeless Accommodation. Into Hostels and hotels. Now fortunately this period only lasted for a few weeks and we got the apartment we are in today.
What was going through your mind at this stage. It’s a huge responsibility ?
David: If I look back and look at how I’ve had to adapt as a person. There was only so much of that I could do while I was under the influence of all these substances. I had to change so much – I don’t have the motherly instincts that mothers have. I have nearly had to change my whole personality to be a much better version of me for my daughter. Women do things for kids…it’s like attention to detail. For me it doesn’t come naturally in my thought process. I think that has changed dramatically for me. It is probably the most amazing thing I have ever done. But by far the hardest. The amount of growth and even pain in that growth has been hard.
G: Was the drug use confined to prescription drugs at this stage or did you go into other drugs?
David: Prescription drugs was my thing. Alcohol and cannabis as well. Cannabis was probably the biggest that I done. It was them three together. For a lot of the early time I thought I was just a social user of cannabis and that the pills were really the big problem. But that wasn’t the case really.
G: Can I ask you a question because it’s topical. The rapid decline from a young man married with a young child to homelessness. When you are looking back what are your feelings on the legalization of drugs and say cannabis?
David: To be honest with you. I can see the government benefiting from it. I can see what they have done in America and other places where they legalized it. They have spent the money on support systems and treatment centers. But where it brought me.. I can tell ya I don’t really think it’s a good idea…Now there are people that can smoke weed and function normally and then people like me where its an obsession from the minute I wake up in the morning. Cannabis puts me in a go slow all the time and ends up doing nothing.
G: That’s an interesting perspective. We look around at places like California where it’s legalized and it’s something I’m always weighing up in my head. Maybe its good. Maybes its not so good?
David: Look there are loads of benefits to say Cannabis but the way I look at it is – If it used for medicine does it have to be smoked?
If someone is smoking it they are not using it for medicine reasons you know…
G: True. Sorry I got side-tracked there. When you found yourself with Marian as a 3 year old. You basically have no-one to rely on but yourself. How long of a process was it to change?
David: Well I should say something before that. Not long before I went back to my Mam with Marian that time, before I got the phone call..I was starting to feel suicidal….I felt like I wanted to take my own life.
G: So you had made attempts?
David: Yes I had made attempts on my life…And my thoughts at the time about the attempts were…Jesus you can’t even do that right…you know.
I knew I was sick of the tablets. They had so much control over me. I thought if I gave up the tablets everything would be fine. Basically we were split up at the time. So I stopped taking tablets one day. But what I was doing was buying four litres of cider and I would drink the cider until I fell asleep. So everyday that I was getting through without taking tablets I was drinking all this cider and smoking loads of weed. I done that for about 10 days to two weeks. When I went back to my Mams and to take on Marion. I was tablet free but sure Jesus I was as mad as a brush..
G: So in the early days of recovery you were struggling to identify everything you were fighting in yourself?
David: I thought that my addiction was sorted coz I was only drinking and smoking weed….drink was sickening me so I was mostly just smoking weed…As I said I got Marian and got her into school and eventually got an apartment sorted and I even went to college…but sure I couldn’t cope with life. I couldn’t cope with being a dad…I couldn’t cope with being a student..I couldn’t cope with paying bills. There were all these issues I couldn’t cope with. Now I had great support from my parents …now as I have said they didn’t take both of us in but that was to, I suppose, not just give me a kick up the arse…but to find my own independence. But I am very grateful for what they did. If my mother had’ve taken me in everything would have stayed the same..
G: You would have had a crutch to lean on and never fully tackled your problems?
David: Exactly. I would have just done my own thing and Marian would have been safe. To be honest I didn’t think Cannabis was a problem..but didn’t do great in college..didn’t know why ….Wasn’t committed….too busy smoking rather than studying ya know. I actually started training with Simon McEvoy around this time when he had his gym in Inchicore. Now he has been a huge part of the journey since then. A huge support. I got back involved playing football. That gave me a few things…. It got me back on a healthy path even though I was smoking….But it drove me to do something I was good at…To do training and that but still didn’t believe I was an addict or anything else….
I was still linking with the services..Marion would have used the child care services. So I had a support from an after school point of view. They would have gave us dinners and stuff like that…So it was like…you’d go in the there after college…I was a big believer in having Marian involved in something positive so I’ve had her involved with Football since she was 3 or 4. So it was always something I was conscious of doing and she loved football.. But at the same time I used to bring her to my football and nearly resent her afterwards because I would have to deal with people. Because of my own insecurities. How can you resent something that your driving yourself?…Because I still didn’t have the skills to socialize and I didn’t really want to socialize.
G: So a couple of years in how would you say your addictions were playing out socially?
I would say that alcohol was social till near the end. Cannabis would have been a lot on my own. And the same with the prescription pills previously. Basically this service I was using started doing these cannabis groups so I started experimenting…
G: When you say services what specific services are you talking about?
David: Oh…addiction services. So they would have introduced ideas like reduced use of cannabis groups and stuff like that. So look I was starting to experiment with my usage. I would make goals and try not to smoke till night time or not smoke in the morning.
I tried a number of different things and I think I actually did 2 sets of 12 weeks in cannabis groups. So I had educated myself on cannabis and all these other drugs. Because I didn’t even realise the danger I had put myself in when I was detoxing from the pills. The danger of doing it the way I did it.
G: You know that thought went through my head when you said you gave up the prescription pills cold turkey. Like Wow that’s dangerous…
David: Yeah… I thought i was doing the right thing at the time.
G: So tell me about your decision to access these addiction services?
David: It was more knowing I couldn’t cope with a child on my own. As I said I was quite happy with my drug use when I first linked in…It was more as an outlet to cope with raising a child but the more I was there and exposed to it….I started learning and joining the different groups and started trying different things.
Something happened in Marian’s school one day… actually around his time I was trying to go a night without smoking weed. It was a group goal for that week…Try smoking 6 instead of 7 nights a week. What I found was that the night’s I didn’t smoke I didn’t sleep. The nights I didn’t sleep the next day I was like a monster. So I was a monster to be around. I tried it two or three times but in the end just said to myself I am upsetting everybody when I don’t smoke the night before. So it was easier for me not to do it or very safe. Because I am causing so much hurt and pain.
Anyway I got a call one day off the school and something happened , I think she had thrown a chair across the classroom. She was only 4 or 5 at the time. I was after having her assessed not long before – a kind of play therapy – in the Daughters of Charity – they do play therapy. I was told she was grand. This incident happened in school and the principal says she needs Marion to be psychologically assessed…Now I tell you what…..When she said that to me I was on the defence straight away. I just took it as an insult
G: To be honest I don’t think I’d have had a different reaction if it was my child in the same situation. I mean it’s a sensitive issue even when it’s the correct course of action
David: I probably had this woman pinned to the wall in my head. I wanted to react and I was a bit sharp in what I said afterwards..I was so hurt after that. I went home and I smoked and smoked and smoked..Yet the gut feeling was still there, I was thinking and thinking about it and just felt Marian’s outburst reflected on my own behaviour.
You know who was she becoming my daughter. Who was the behaviour coming from? And it was mirroring what she saw her father doing …..And I just thought Jesus …I’m going to have to bloody change. Really change. I didn’t really know how to change but I just thought I’ll have a look at the services the next day. So we looked at a plan to go to a treatment centre .. a cannabis detox. But we had to think about it very logically we had to think about what would suit. Both my parents are working..Have I got the support to take Marian for the month and ya know time to do the detox?
So we were looking at dates in June and this was probably January…but something came up in June and we couldn’t do it
G: What year are we talking here?
David: We’re talking in 2015. So we looked at it. We made a made a plan and we got in for July 2015. The 2nd of July. I had the support of me Mam and Dad. I had my spot so I just had to turn up. At the same time we had Marion assessed by a Psychologist even though it hurt but I knew it was the right thing. There was no harm in it. I understood this after I calmed down from what the principal said.
I had been back playing football during this time, as I was saying to you, and I had been going down to the homeless street leagues prior to this..even-though I wasn’t in the right space really. They reward people who are doing the right things and I was still using…but the door was still always open to me from them.
Look I went in and done my month in a place in Gormanstown out by Balbriggan. I was Cannabis free at the end of it but the thinking was still in the same place. I was in the same routines….making handy money selling bits of drugs..Bits and pieces. But I was kinda of saying to myself “I’m after getting clean now and I’m selling bits and pieces of drugs what’s that about”
That’s the environment I came from to make a handy few quid. But the crazy mindset was I’m not smoking but at least I’m doing it better than I used to do it. Crazy kind of thinking…But that was never going to be successful. So after I did the 28 days they said look we are sending you to a drug day program your gonna have to do a lot of work. It’s a Community employment scheme.
G: How did that work out did you stick with it?
So you’re there from Monday to Friday 9-3:30. I wasn’t willing to go for a larger treatment for say another 12 weeks in another place. The deal with my Mam and Dad was for a month. I didn’t have another 12 weeks to be away from home. Gormanstown basically said the only way for you to stay clean is for you to go to this day program. So I went to the day program with low expectations sure I said I’ll just do it.
Probably the best thing I have ever done in my life…one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life…I had to learn about myself and my behaviors. I was challenged every day. We did groups on behaviour …We did gender groups.. Everyone was in the same spot. The criteria of this day program was to be clean. You had to give two urine samples a week. That way they knew you were clean. It was time to put the work in. I started doing that…it was very, very difficult for me.
So I spent the guts of two years there…I was there until the end of 2017.
G: So basically now your life revolved around raising Marian, dropping your her off to school and going to the day program..collecting Marian and trying to survive and learn?
David: Yeah and there was another criteria of the program. You had to do meetings. I had to go to NA or AA meetings and like I didn’t want to do them. But they said look if you want to last in this program you either do them or there’s the door.
To be honest with you I was desperate. So as much as I didn’t like what they were saying to me I was desperate. I just followed the process. I just went with it and said look I have nothing to lose here. It was either life or death at that stage. I had got clean but I certainly wasn’t happy and I certainly didn’t have a handle on everything I needed to have a handle on and couldn’t provide everything I needed to provide.
G: Did you stick with the NA and AA meetings?
David: Ah yeah. Ah yeah, I still do
G: I’ve been in AA myself. And I’d be very similiar in that I didn’t probably see the need for it in the beginning. It’s a gradual process to realise how beneficial that ongoing thing is…Like keeping your head straight you know…and that there will always be times when you’re thinking illogically regardless of being on a substance or off it. It’s helpful have a place to say that stuff out loud and get rid of it?
100%. I was dabbling between both meetings but to be honest with you over time AA was my preferred place. The day program had a lot of members of NA so I used to chat with drug addicts there. But like I was an addict across the board. I can’t say I was more this or that. I was an addict across the board. I just felt over time in AA there was a nice relaxing vibe.
What I wanted was and I tell ya what…I have been involved in so much low level criminality and stuff like that through my drug use….I just didn’t want to hear about it anymore. Just for me. Just for me now I mean…everyone is different. I found AA there was solutions to everything explained or whatever. It helped give me solutions and I needed to focus on the steps of the program.
G: I suppose in Ireland alcohol abuse is in our DNA – we can trace it back hundreds of years and dealing with it. Coming up with solutions. I suppose Drugs is really a relatively new enterprise maybe only 20 years where it’s acceptable to come out and say your a drug addict?
David: I have heard loads of drug addicts say they’re not alcoholics and I suppose from my point of view addiction is addiction.
G: That’s been my attitude too. One addiction can tend to just move to another one. Whether that’s just binge watching a series on Netflix…So where did the football fit in around the day program and the work you were doing on working on yourself
Exactly…. So I’d say by mid 2017 I was finishing up the day centre. I started doing a course with the F.A.I. around then. I started getting some coaching badges. It’s something I always wanted to do. To give back to the kids. As I said earlier, I wanted to be a Youth and community worker when I was really young. I had experience when I was younger with a little bit of coaching. I got involved again and I ended getting my gym instruction qualifications during this period as well. I was still in the day program but near the end of it. So a position came up with the service centre that supported me in Inchicore originally. On a Community employment scheme as a support worker. They said they would be delighted to have me because I went through their services, I was clean and I fitted the criteria and all the clients there knew me. So it was good for them as well…you know like a person who had come through…Just before I started that I went to Norway and represented the Irish homeless team. September/October 2017 I would have captained the Irish Homeless team. As I said before I had been involved with the Homeless street leagues and when I was fully clean this accelerated and led to me being chosen to play for Ireland.
G: Wow. Jesus you’ve been busy!
David: Yeah, I also started supporting other addicts and groups. I was able to facilitate groups and I done a Level 5 in addiction studies. I went on to do a group facilitation at Level 6. By the end of the two years I was starting to facilitate groups on my own. I was getting relief work off them too. I was doing my 19.5 hours on the Community Employment and I was getting 15 hours relief work. So I was basically in a full working week at some of the stages. As I said I did the coaching badges and started coaching too.
So as I was telling you earlier my daughter is very interested in Soccer and was playing with boys teams, so in about April 2017 I got involved with coaching my daughters age group in Cherry Orchard. It started off nice and slow. There had never been a girls team before. Just trying to teach them the basics. Never thinking it would get to where it is today. But like what we were talking about earlier with my obsessiveness and compulsiveness I kind of applied this in terms of setting up proper structures. I let the girls decide what goals they wanted to set and make sure the structures were there for them to achieve their goals. Simon McEvoy is involved with that as some of the girls do extra gym work with his Elite Teens. They love it. In fact my Dad, my daughter and myself all train with Simon. He’s been great for our whole family. So it all kinda just grew and grew quite quickly…We won a trophy last year with the girls and they are playing in the highest league now..They just got better and better. There are 4 of them called into the F.A.I. emerging talents program.
G: That’s fairly amazing David.
If I go back to Norway and the Homeless World Cup…I was the second oldest player and captain. When I was younger I always had this obsession about being the best player and all that stuff. In Norway something happened where It wasn’t about me being the best. In Norway I was 10 years older than some of these lads. I didn’t have the same energy and drive as some of the younger lads but what I learned was that I was a good leader. That I could lead and that when I spoke people listened. When I was younger I always wanted to be capped for Ireland. But what I learned was that once I got my Ireland cap, playing football didn’t mean what it used to but being involved in football meant more. I got the enjoyment out of leading and I just said to myself I’m going to focus my time on coaching…
My CE time was up in July 2019 and I suppose I was thinking of different routes to look at like social care but I kinda said I’m much more beneficial in a sport environment. I’m good in both sections but I wanted to pursue the coaching and see how high I can get in that.
G: And of course Cherry Orchard is still a very prominent Football club.
David: Ah very much so….and I still do support work – I got a part-time relief work with people with disabilities at Sisters of Charity…and I got that position from the time when I was in the addiction services …They basically gave me a reference to look for part time work there..So I have that on the go at the moment and I’m doing a massage therapist course in college and with the coaching It’s often 9 pm before myself and Marion are home here. I feel I have achieved more in the last 3 or 4 years than I did in the previous 29 all together.
You have a tonne to be proud of and having that extra bond with your daughter too through soccer. Tell me thru all of this time from when you first came to the attention of the various services as a homeless person and accessing the homeless shelters and then yourself and your daughter going out into accommodation. In terms of the Irish State treatment were you treated all along as people that were homeless?
David: Yes…The way it worked at that time….Even if you signed up on their register for a week you were on the homeless register I think. I wasn’t homeless – as in on the street – for a huge long period maybe about two months roughly.
G: I suppose how long you find yourself on the street is irrelevant, it’s that when you find yourself there how hard it is to climb back?
David: I knew the street wasn’t a place I could survive in too long. What I was doing when I was homeless I was going up to the services or anywhere just to get in out of the cold. I wasn’t hanging around street corners I can tell ya that. I tell ya what the hostels I was staying in were like dangerous places. I was sleeping with one eye open if you know what I mean.
G: Back then were you dealing with a lot of people that were facing a lot of the same issues that you had and worse?
David: I remember being in a room one night. With 4 bunks beds so there was 8 beds. I think there might have been one bed free. The other 6 guys were all injecting in the toilet ya know. Heroin or whatever. I suppose thats one example that springs to mind.
G: Generally speaking and looking back you have a unique perspective on Homelessness issues as you experienced them personally for those 2 months on the streets and then thru the long climb back from the brink. How do you view the crisis?
David: At the time I would have seen it as an addiction problem but not so much now. Now I don’t see it as just an addiction problem. At the time all I was tuned to see on the streets was drugs. I was trying or knew I had to try to get myself away from drugs and get better. Look I would have seen myself as someone that was just smoking weed but I was probably judging all the ones that were taking heroin and this and that. I was very judgmental. Too judgmental probably.
G: Would you be more afraid to find yourself homeless in that situation today than say you would have back then 7 or 8 years ago ?
David: Oh 100% I would…..I’ll put some more light on the story and it might explain some of the problems facing people today. I actually got an eviction notice here in this apartment that I have been in for the last number of years on Monday. Basically a vulture fund that bought this apartment block during the crash sold it on to a landlord and the rent that is paid in this block is at a low rate. A little over 800 euro a month I pay. The new Landlord cannot bring up the rent until they take people out of the units. So basically they want to renovate it and to do it they want to evict everybody. Then they can charge the new people maybe 1,000 euro more a month. So everyone in the block are in the same situation. Some are like me on social housing allowance but its not all people like that some people are working. Working class people. It’s a mix.
G: Do the government allow that?
David: Well everything seems to be above board. This is the thing I’d be hoping that people go out and vote properly It’s the same parties putting us in these situations. Today, there seems to be so many more people that are homeless.
G: Is that putting pressure on people like you..That have been taken off the streets and are working their way back…you know …working the program correctly and are back on their feet a bit but still vulnerable?
David: Well it’s a lot harder for me to get housed now. I was lucky when I got this place a number of years ago. The problem has got so much worse and there is a lack of social support and housing for all the people.
I know people that have been in Jail. In jail most of their lives and come out and get housed right. The problem is that they can’t sustain that home they don’t have the living or coping skills. They are used to getting 3 meals a day, they are institutionalized. They often don’t have them coping skills. What often happens up here is you’ll see a family moving into a flat complex. They are on the housing list and it’s their rightful turn and all that…But you’ll often find that within a year that they are gone because they haven’t paid their rent or whatever because they haven’t developed the living or coping skills.
G: Whats the situation for you now? Surely they can’t evict you until they find another place for you can they?
David: Oh they can they can. Now they will need a circuit court order to move us on I think. I’m only after finding out so I don’t know all the details yet. It’ll be probably awhile yet to get thru the process of the eviction order but once they have it and execute it they can hire one of those companies to remove the tenants.
G: And how many people are in the same boat as you and your daughter?
David: Everyone here. Some are out sooner than others. Like there was people supposed to be out of here (Emmet Gardens) last year and I can imagine it won’t be long before the bailiffs arrive with the court order and they’ll just have to go. With me I only received my termination on Monday. So it means I’ll probably get a few months from the date given – Just while they get all their paperwork in order.
G: So you are relying on the general housing lists and hoping to get a social house through that before the eviction?
David: I would be. Now I only got the eviction notice last Monday so I have to fully get all the facts together but since I got into recovery I am a doer – So I’ll be getting onto people and trying to ruffle a few feathers and sort something out for Marian and me. .