Tommy has been on the streets since he was 11. He’s spent many a Christmas on the cold concrete. He says Christmas is the loneliest time of year. So lonely, you can feel like a ghost.
“My parents were alcoholics and I left home very young. I went into the city when I was 11.
I put myself through school, and did my exams and it wasn’t long after, my mental health deteriorated and my relationship with heroin started until the age of 28.
“When you’re on the streets, it depends on who you interact with, who will show you kindness. That can make or break you. You will get very nice people who come up to you and would take 5-10 minutes to speak to you. But they can’t change what’s going on.
“When you’re sitting on street level, you’re watching other people’s feet walking past you. All day long, you’re watching them go right past you. Because I’m watching people’s feet – that’s all I’m seeing – I think it affects the brain because it’s like you’re being trampled on by society. You feel like society has trampled you down. If I’m sitting on the street, I’m below everyone. That’s how I see it. That’s how they see it.
“Sometimes they don’t even see you. Won’t ever see you. You feel like a ghost, like you could just disappear and no one would notice.
“When I say it like this… You can go months, and I mean months, without talking to anyone. Then your mental health will go. You know you’ve slipped through the net of society. You know you’re not welcome.
“It can be very, very lonely. I think that’s the killer – loneliness.”
“From Stephen’s Day until New Year’s – it’s absolute torture, it’s like a ghost town, there’s nobody. There’s a real sense of emptiness, that’s the only way to describe it. Being homeless at Christmas… I can’t describe it. It’s very hard to put into words.
“I come from a massive family and you miss your family at Christmas. You feel like you’re an embarrassment to them and you would be better off not being there.
“You want to reach out to someone more than anything, but there’s no one there. You want to pick up the phone and speak to someone. But then you don’t want to phone, because maybe they don’t want to speak to you.
“What people don’t understand is – homelessness is not just one thing. It’s a combination of problems that has led to this – losing a job, a family break up or addiction. It’s never just the one thing, it’s a combination that can lead to this.
“Everyone has a story. We need to be seen and heard.”
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