By Elizabeth Doherty
A HOMELESS man who gave a soaking-wet commuter his umbrella did not realise he was helping Michael Jackson’s former surgeon – who has revealed the tragic singer handed out money to Dublin’s homeless.
The homeless man, David, gave his brolly to Patrick Treacy, celebrity surgeon, who befriended Jackson, and carried out procedures for the star over the years.
The story of a homeless man giving a commuter his umbrella in Dublin, went viral on Facebook as people shared the sentiment of someone who had nothing, helping another.
But David did not know, or no doubt care, who Patrick was, or the wealthy friends he has encountered, when he offered kindness.
Patrick told today how Jackson had helped charity and had paid attention to Dublin’s homeless problem years ago during trips here.
“Michael often travelled around Dublin in a blacked out van,” Patrick said.
Michael would regularly pull over and hand over whatever money he had in his wallet when he saw homeless people on the street.
“He was annoyed at children wandering the streets around the canal area after 10 or 11pm in the winter months and felt their parents were irresponsible.”
Though his reputation was mired by controversy throughout his life – Jackson, a talented vocalist and performer, who became one of the most famous global singers of all time – did carry out a great deal of charity work, which often went unreported.
And he donated money to disadvantaged and homeless children. While on world tour in Dublin in 1992, Jackson donated more than €550,000 to various charities.
“Michael even pulled up to talk to and ask some children why they weren’t in their beds,” one evening in Dublin, Patrick said.
It seemed that the stranger side of Jackson’s life – including his changing appearance, which many believe was a body dysmorphic disorder, and his fascination with children – which during the latter part of his career resulted in abuse allegations – gained more headlines than his altruism.
But renowned dermatologist Patrick was keen to point out that the star had a very caring side towards those less fortunate.
When the surgeon, who is ambassador to the Michael Jackson Legacy Foundation, remembers Jackson, he does so for his humanitarian work.
And charity is something that is important to Patrick also. He is heartened at the reaction the homeless man received online.
I was profoundly wet. I was drenched and David took pity and gave me a second umbrella he had in his bag.
“I never tend to judge people but was still taken aback by both his benevolence and the resulting social media reaction.”
Ireland Today caught up with David on the street, where he told us he didn’t want to talk about the experience and all he wanted was ‘shelter.’
Sadly, David is one of around 5,000 people, who are homeless in Ireland as we approach Christmas.
Patrick spoke today to raise awareness of David’s plight – in the hope that every one of us can offer kindness to homeless people this festive season and beyond.
I suppose it is Christmas and we have lost some of the true spirit of the period due to materialism. We also possibly feel a collective guilt towards the homeless on our streets.
The viral photos of David smiling as he passed his umbrella upward toward an elated Patrick, were seen by hundreds of people.
They sparked comments from those wanting to help David, and even set up a fund for him.
Patrick said he is happy with the reaction – but that homelessness is an issue he has been very switched on to for a long time.
“There are many reasons why a person becomes homeless, including poverty, unemployment, and lack of good quality, affordable housing.
“I totally respect the fact that problematic alcohol or/and drug users will have difficulty holding a job or will have a higher incidence of relationship breakdowns resulting in them having to leave their homes.
“We have homeless who are present on the streets due to economic difficulties, unemployment and lack of social housing.
“Unfortunately, in my experience these people get diluted or even become rather invisible.
In Dublin, the homeless situation has obviously reached crisis levels.
“We need to address the homeless problem by providing better support systems.
“Everybody has their own reason for being on the streets, Everybody deserves a chance to come back into society.”
In the wake of Jonathan Corrie’s death last December, homeless people are still sleeping on the city streets.
Jonathan, who grew up in a wealthy family, died only metres from the Dail last December.
An immediate national outcry occurred afterwards – but still homeless figures are rising – and state resources devoted to the humanitarian issue are limited.
Earlier this month a new shelter was opened in Dublin city to house 100 homeless as part of the Government’s Cold Weather Initiative – but given the huge number of people on the streets, this will not provide for enough people.
While many homeless people grow increasingly isolated on the streets, ignored by the vast majority of passers-by.
Ireland Today has spoken to homeless people in the city in recent months, with many maintaining that they wish people would talk to them rather than walk by them.
Patrick echoed this sentiment, saying: “There is no doubt homeless people usually like to chat and talk to people to maintain the structures that bond community and society together.
The story of David will certainly make people realise that even in the midst of adversity people can maintain human kindness and their dignity.
“I help the homeless whenever I can, either in food distribution or personal donation. I do a lot of overseas humanitarian work. I will possibly be working with economic migrants over Christmas period.”
As for David and the hundreds like him on Dublin’s streets, Patrick feels, like many, the state should step in.
And it is becoming more common for people who once had jobs, mortgages, and lives, to joining the number of homeless, whose lives are at risk as temperatures plunge.
“The Housing Act 2009 provides a statutory structure to address the needs of people who are experiencing homelessness,” Patrick said.
“The Act outlines a statutory obligation to have an action plan in place but does not impose a duty on housing authorities to provide housing to people who are homeless.
“The Act should be changed to give responsibility to the local authorities to provide accommodation for our citizens.”