Homeless in Carrigaline, Mark has been on the streets for the last two years, sleeping rough in the town while living and coming to terms with a heart condition.
Thanks to the help of the Homeless Drive, who provide hot meals and clothing to the homeless once a week, Mark is currently living in a derelict bungalow in a quiet part of the town but the conditions are barely liveable with the doors windows smashed, with the glass scattered along the floor.
Rubbish is blocking entry into two rooms while more is piled around the outside so that Mark could access the room he sleeps in. His room is bare with watermarks streaking down the walls with an old mattress on the floor, with tea light candles around the room for light.
Mark had a bedsit in the town previously but explained to The Echo how he ended up sleeping in a tent for the best part of two years: “I was only in hospital for about three or four weeks but the landlord just changed the lock and informed me that he’s renting the room to someone else.”
Since then, he said he has lived a transient lifestyle spending time sleeping in tents and hostels.
“Since then I’ve been moving on the buses and going back to the hostels but always leaving them when there was an incident,” he said.
Mark first slept on a beach for some time and also in the Lee Fields but both tents had been damaged. “Actually, I had two tents while on the beach and there was a crowd that would try to be at me at night time and I had to run them off. Then another time when I came back, another tent it was broken,” he said.
While he has been in Carrigaline, Mark spoke fondly of the community and was grateful for how they ensured he is ok: “They’ve been good, it’s been great being here, there’s no problem here actually”.
Through all of this, Mark had to have surgery on his heart due to regular and severe pains, they placed a device and tubes that help pump his blood around his body.
The device is fastened to his ribcage with the wire running to his oesophagus. He then attends appointments or a team can come to him if he’s unable to get there to receive check-ups.
He told of a recent experience where emergency services had to attend to him: “We had a problem with it there, the thing in my oesophagus was burning me, so it was overheating and it’s like heartburn. They had to get a team out and they had things going down my mouth and everything.”
“Waking up in the hospital and learning about it outside, it was very tough for me”, He added.
Last winter was tough for Mark when the country was hit by the ‘Beast from the East’ but when times have been difficult, the 29-year-old has gone to the hostels in the city. However, he said he didn’t feel comfortable with what would be going on in there.
“Prostitution going on, like you wouldn’t hear of it before. I just hated it and felt uncomfortable. I’ve stayed away from people but sometimes then when they would try to vibe it off you. I used to get very angry and I’d just walk straight out the door”, he said.
There were also reports of rape and theft while Mark was there, as well as fighting. Mark would then leave whenever there was an incident.
Mark also spoke of how gardaí would often be called almost weekly due to violence and drug abuse in the hostels. It was that kind of anti-social behaviour that he felt better finding any kind of shelter in towns, instead of remaining in the city.
“I get on better myself in a tent or I would say to them you’re better off not sleeping in the city because it’s all busy. You wouldn’t know what would be happening around you. You’re better off going to sleep in a town, or in a beach or a field somewhere where there’s no hassle.”
Asked if he has family he could have turned to for help, it was met with a gut-punching answer: “They’re all after moving on now.”
He continued: “I was only thinking about it yesterday how everyone just gets up and goes on with their lives like. It’s something that would never happen in the olden days.”
Given the difficult path Mark has been on in recent times, Mark said he feels his current accommodation in a derelict house is a step in the right direction.
He is in receipt of disability allowance and has a travel pass that enables him to get around, which has allowed him to begin saving up his money to finally rent a place in the upcoming months.
Mark’s optimism is uplifting as he spoke of what kind of an apartment he will hope to someday rent and then find work or even return to education, as he washed his face and hands with rainwater from the recent storm that filled up a mop bucket outside.
We read with regularity about the increase in the number of Ireland’s homeless. Jack Squibb speaks to one Cork man about how he came to live in a derelict suburban house and his fear of the hostels in the city.