Budget 2021: Homeless man who hatched prison return plan calls for increase in housing budget

Budget 2021: Homeless man who hatched prison return plan calls for increase in housing budget

“I had been sleeping in tents, doorways and using Simon’s nightlight service,” he said.

A CORK man hatched a plan to get back into prison after finding himself without a roof over his head while in the grip of an unmerciful drug addiction.

Robert, not his real name, made the shocking admission to highlight the need for an increase to the state’s housing budget.

He is also calling for more funds to be ploughed back into mental health services and addiction treatment facilities.

He was speaking ahead of Budget 2021’s unveiling on Tuesday.

After the Covid-19 pandemic hit, he found himself robbed of support for his crippling alcohol and drug addictions.

Availing of the Simon Community’s night light service, Robert felt he was merely surviving each day. The Cork man said that he longed to gain access to residential treatment. However, lockdown restrictions meant this was no longer an option. Robert decided to take drastic, and even criminal, measures to return to prison and restore structure to his life.

“I had been sleeping in tents, doorways and using Simon’s nightlight service,” he said.

“I wanted to go to prison because I knew I was guaranteed a bed. I knew I had to get back in there to get any structure in my life. My decision was to come up with a victimless crime that was also guaranteed to get me back into prison.”

He described his lowest point.

“That morning I had taken heroin, methadone and some whiskey to settle my nerves. Covid stopped people going into treatment and the only place left to go was prison. I caused criminal damage to a public building. When the Gardaí arrived I was standing there with the evidence in my hands.”

The weeks leading up to that point had been a heartbreaking struggle for Robert.

“I was in the Mercy Hospital and having a defibrillator used on me. I’d always hope that they would hold on to me for a few days. People were watching me arriving after an overdose knowing there were people with Covid fighting for their lives. I had been dead for minutes before doctors brought me back. It should have been an amazing feeling to know that my life had been saved. Instead, I felt disgusted that I had come back. Anyone who says that this is a choice is wrong.

“I overdosed 10 times in seven days. I was sick and shaking all the time. I was embarrassed. The only way I was going to get better was if I was physically removed from the situation. When you are in prison you have a routine. I had three square meals a day and all the basic things that anyone would want in life. Prison ended up saving my life.”

Nonetheless, Robert’s troubles came flooding back after he left prison.

“I spent three months in prison and felt completely useless when I got out. The worst part about being in a situation like this is feeling disconnected from the world. I was lost. All I wanted was to stop using and start being treated like a human being again.”

The former prisoner admitted that his struggles with drugs and alcohol started at a young age.

“Years ago I was with a band and my attitude to life was ‘live fast and die young’. I watched the film Trainspotting and thought it seemed glamorous but the reality was a lot different. Now, all I want in life is to be out of the rain.”

Robert currently has his name on the housing list but said he feels there is little hope for young males seeking homes.

The Cork man is currently living in a B&B and spends his time volunteering.

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