Joyce Rubotham @
At the weekend most of us were in shock to hear the story of a homeless, elderly widower being urinated on by a group of youths in Dublin – but today YOU can take action to help the homeless.
Julie O’Connor, founder of the Walking in THEIR Shoes charity, is the woman who helped the elderly man when he was at his most vulnerable in the early hours of Saturday – after he was jeered at and urinated on by four young men.
Today, as you read this, her group is looking for sleeping bags, donations of warm clothes, sleeping bags and food – and you can help by checking out their Facebook page.
Julie, who has for fifteen months now, been working with 14 volunteers helping homeless people in Dublin, came to the aid of the 67-year-old man, after the daughter of a friend called from Dublin city centre, telling of the disturbing sight she had witnessed. And Julie did what she always did – she came to the rescue.
Along with the young woman, Julie spoke to the man, gave him clean clothes and a fresh sleeping bag.
The homeless man was, Julie said “well-spoken and quiet.” He appeared very sad and totally depleted as a human being. His spirit had surely been broken.
Julie tried to insist upon reporting the incident to the police. The elderly man was fearful of the consequences if the men who abused him find out.
Julie described him as, “a very sad man, lost and down on himself, his wife had recently died and he had some trouble with alcohol.”
She offered to put him up in a hotel for the night or take him to Merchant’s Quay for a shower and some food. His manner was gentle and quiet.
“He was very proud and more worried about putting me to trouble,” said Julie.
Every Thursday evening, the volunteers set up a soup kitchen outside the Central Bank. Julie, a retired nurse from Palmerstown in Dublin, is passionate about breaking the isolation and stigma associated with homelessness.
Julie stresses the importance of the service that Walking in THEIR shoes provides.
It’s not just the food we give out that matters, it’s the chat and banter you have with vulnerable people who are totally isolated from mainstream society. These are people, just like us, who are down on their luck. They deserve our empathy.
She describes the phenomenon of the “Hidden Homeless” – people who are not registered as officially homeless. This poor man, she suspected, is one of those.
He, like many homeless people in Dublin, would rather risk sleeping on the streets than sleep in a hostel. Homeless hostels in Dublin are often reported as being drug-filled and frightening places.
Walking in THEIR shoes operate their soup kitchen from 8pm every Thursday evening on Dame street, Dublin 2.