A 47-year-old man has spoken emotionally this week of how he has been living in a tent for over a year and half in the heart of Letterkenny.
Within yards of one of the busiest thoroughfares in the country, his ‘home’ is nestled in a densely wooden area, away from the eyes of the public and busy passing traffic. At night he beds down in a sleeping bag with his earthly belongings – a rucksack, a set of rosary beads and a holy cross.
When he leaves the tent, to get food and provisions a note is left in the tent. It simply reads: “This is all I have in my life- Thank You,” – for fear somebody may come and damage or steal his pitched tent.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Donegal News, met with ‘Paddy’ to hear his story and visit his ‘home’- a two man tent measuring six foot long by three feet wide. “This is where I have spent the last year and a half. I’ve nowhere else to go,” he said. “I have a drink problem- I make no secret of it, but I’m a proud Irishman and I’m not getting the help I need as I am homeless,” he added.
He is a well-known figure around the town where his polite personality has endeared him to many locals and business people who give him help.
So desperate was ‘Paddy’ to find help, he interrupted a meeting of Letterkenny Town Council on Monday night saying he was ‘homeless and unable to get accommodation’.
“I’m a citizen of this state, but where are my rights? I have a drink problem- I make no secret of it, but I’m not a drunk falling around the street. I want help. The St Vincent De Paul homeless hostel has been great to me, but now they have a ‘dry’ policy or zero tolerance on drink and I had to move on.
“They were brilliant to me out there in the hostel, but I can understand why they have a zero tolerance policy to alcohol. I have to have two bottles of cider a day- but I’m not a bad drunk, falling around the town. I only go into the town centre for a two hour period in the evening, when the schoolchildren have all gone home, because I don’t want them to see me,” he explained.
“I feel deeply let down that, as an Irishman, I don’t seem to have any rights. I’m falling between the cracks of the state welfare and homeless system,” he added.
Paddy was asked to leave the council chamber but councillors said they would speak to him at the conclusion of the meeting. A caring caretaker gave him a cup of tea as he stood outside the council offices in the freezing cold.