Homelessness is a huge problem in Ireland. It’s something that I think is quite hard to accept for most people and something I personally try and push to the back of my mind because it’s so upsetting. It’s estimated that there is up to 5,000 people who are homeless in Ireland at any given time (Focus Ireland, 2015). Whether that be sleeping on the streets, ‘sofa surfing’, squatting or staying in emergency accommodation. It really is a lot of people, and for whatever reason that they are homeless, I don’t think anyone deserves to have nowhere to call home. Which is why I wonder, of all the people in the world, why they decide to get pets?

 

All over Dublin’s City Centre you can find more and more homeless people with cute, furry little friends. It started with that man who became pretty well known for his little bunny and puppy companions. Everyone oohs & aahs at them, takes photos and gives a couple of euros. All I can think is; if these people can’t home, clothe, medicate or feed themselves… how can they take care of a dog? When I see a homeless person with a dog or even a rabbit, it just signifies another homeless creature in the world. It’s really selfish and unfair to adopt an animal and bring them on to the streets, living rough and being inevitably unsafe. A part of me thinks that maybe it would make their lives easier, having a friend for the lonely times. But those momentary thoughts always ends with the obvious fact that an animal shouldn’t be made homeless, no animal deserves that. And where are they getting them? I assume shelters do home checks and background checks before they give animals away? If they aren’t coming from shelters then they’re probably coming from somewhere else grim, maybe inadequate farms, abandoned or stolen puppies or even force bred animals. What if the dog becomes sick? Have they been wormed, chipped and neutered? I find it hard to believe that any of these animals have received proper healthcare which means those owners should not have them. The same goes for non homeless people, wealthy or poor, no one should have a dog if they don’t have the money, time and care to keep them, and more importantly to keep them healthy.

 

I assume most of these people probably haven’t had them their whole lives and simply cannot live without ‘man’s best friend’. The real reason, I’m guessing, is that cuteness equals cash. Animals appeal to the public, especially little vulnerable ones. Sweet, small puppies, all cuddled up in their loyal owner’s arms. They only have each other in this cold world – heartbreaking stuff right? Let’s give him a fiver, he’ll definitely be buying dog food with that. I am in no way implying that all people on the streets are using money for different reasons, but to be honest you just can never know.

 

Looks can be Deceiving

A friend of mine told me a very irritating story a few weeks ago. She told me she was just about to give a young man some money who was shivering under a blanket on the streets. Just before she did, he suddenly got up and sprinted away. The Garda were approaching and that’s was who he was running from. She also said she was shocked to see that this ‘homeless’ man was wearing perfect, good quality, clean clothes and brand new expensive shoes. He was just a normal person chancing his arm by begging on the streets for the night. How frustrating is that? My friend is a really empathetic girl and homelessness is actually a very sensitive issue to her but even she then was starting to question the legitimacy of some of these people that we see daily around the city. How can you tell the genuinely unfortunate from the phoney?

 

I think if you want to help the homeless (and their animals) give them something practical. Get them a sandwich and some hot tea, donate them a bag of your old clothes or if they have a little pet, give them a few tins of dog food. If you don’t have time but do have money then donate to the charities such as Focus IrelandSimon Community, MQI and Depaulireland. They all do amazing work for the homeless crisis in Ireland, which I think is a better peace of mind than wondering where the money you gave that woman last night is going.

 

If you don’t have the money but do have the time then you can volunteer in charity shops, shelters, soup kitchens or even run a marathon in aid of one of these charities. Homelessness is such a sad and horrible thing, another issue in this country which needs to be solved quickly rather than ignored. But think twice before putting money in their hands because you obviously can’t control what they do with it. Help them in better ways by giving them something to eat or something to keep them warm and only then can you tell the genuine from the less deserving.