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Dublin

I Live In A 'Shelter Pod' At The Steps Where Jonathan Corrie Died. Do I Deserve To Exist This Way?

Columb Fogarty is a 43-year-old award-winning writer. He's also homeless. Writing for Lovin Dublin, he has a message for the people and the Government of Ireland.

Last week, we met a homeless man occupying the 'shelter pod' outside the Lovin Dublin offices  mere metres away from Leinster House.

The 43-year-old, named Columb Fogarty, took shelter in this particular box in front of Leinster House, upon which he has written a series of heartfelt messages to the public, so that he might raise awareness for his plight and that of more than 5,000 homeless adults and children in Ireland.

Columb is also a published short story writer, and won an award for his piece 'Typewriter Unknown' in the Writing in Prison Competition at the Listowel Writers' Festival.

We commissioned him to write the message he wanted to deliver to the public and the Irish Government, which has ignored him on its very doorstep. 

Today, on the day when the 32nd Dáil convened and failed to elect a government, we hear what he has to say.

I now reside in a wooden box called a 'pod' at the steps where Jonathan Corrie died, facing Leinster House.

It is cold, damp, wet, wooden, six feet long, three feet wide and three feet high, literally a living coffin if I get caught by the hypothermia that licks at my fingers and feet, night after night, day after day. I live and sit in misery.

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Do I deserve to exist this way? No human dignity, the threat of death every day. People stop and stare – do they really care?

Now there are loads of genuinely caring people who take the time to offer a coffee, a cigarette, a few euros for something to eat, and I have to say that. Some even express apologies for the way I am being treated by the our Government. 

But why, why, why do people live this way in 2016? 

Now some will say: "Well then stop going to prison". But how do you become an honest, productive and constructive member of any society you're literally not allowed to live in?

When you're released from prison you wanna change your life, you're gonna take responsibility of your life, you want to change! But rehabilitation is a myth in this country.

If anything, the system is so farcical you'd be forgiven for thinking you're actually being held back, hindered, hurdles put in your way to stop you from becoming part of the society you want to be part of and are expected to be part of in a productive way. 

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You've dreams, hopes, desires, ambitions and you want to pursue them. You've decided to turn your life around but you're unable to further your situation, you cannot even get a place to stay, so you've no structure in your life. Structure is a must in order to get your life in order.

Why do people slag and laugh at your situation?

I get it on a constant basis. But I'm freezing here, my hands are locking up, filled with emotion, hurt, rejection, depression. The song 'Hold On, We're Going Home' is playing now on my phone, the song of myself and my partner, and I'm torn up, ripped apart. 

I'm suicidal, but haven't the courage to end it all. It would be an easy thing to do but by God's grace I fight on every day and will continue to do so till I've no breath in my body.

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At the front of the notebook in which Columb wrote this piece, he also left this note...

If found after my death from hypothermia, shame on the Government.

When all I was doing was living in a box, cause there is no accommodation on the freephone system, a system that would break the hardest of the hard and drive a person to extremes to avoid.

Photographs by Fran Veale. Additional reporting by Seán Kenehan.

Written By

Columb Fogarty

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