This city has changed much over the past 30 or 40 years. The type of people who live in it have a different perspective from those who once did. The buildings have changed, the public spaces, the street coverings, the ambience.
Yet, the one constant that exists is the cold breeze that lashes through the town, winds it way up the streets, finding every nook and cranny. It is a breeze that is as much a charm as a curse.
If you think it is a wind that chills the homeless now, picture how it was for those who lived a half-life in the half light of a city in those decades gone. When there was not as much cognisance of the issue or the people. When the well-housed would look half heartedly at those whose home was a doorway or a shed, somewhere out of sight, out of mind until the darkness dissipated and the dawn arrived.
We are mostly immune to the realities of life on the streets, sleeping in doorways, in old sheds, in dark damp corners where the ill-wind blowing in from the bay always finds a way to find you. For those who lived that life, it was harsh. Many just did not survive. Their chilled bodies found stiff and cold in the blue light of a Galway morning. Another horror for those who often lay beside them, waking up not knowing if what they found was dream or reality; another scar to their minds that would go untreated, unappreciated.
So they walk through the streets, almost invisible. If the others see you, they don’t look, for fear you will ask them for something they will not give, like time, or a kind word, or a smile.
Anything that would allow them to feel human, to be acknowledged. So you shuffle across the space, and they move around you, to avoid you. Their stomach aching, pure aching with the pain of hurt that’s there. That your life has come to this, that you are disregarded so much.
This week, Galway Simon unveiled its winter campaign to help those who find themselves on our streets. And to this end, Simon has turned to one of those who has long used its services — someone who can offer hope to those without.
Dennis Connolly was born in this city in 1953 and lived most of his life on our streets. Now, with the help of Galway Simon, he has found what he told us is “my own little bit of paradise.” He takes pleasure in opening and closing a door, because for most of his life, he did not have a door, and when he did, it was not one he could ever call his own. Read his story on Page 40 this week — and do what you can to help Galway Simon and all of those volunteers who spend their lives trying to improve the lot of others.
As a city, we are privileged to have them.