Dublin man Derek O’Shaughnessy has been living in a homeless shelter since August 2022.
Until he lost his home Derek was working for Marks and Spencer’s on Grafton Street but says he was forced to quit because of the upheaval of losing his home and rapidly changing circumstances.
For legal reasons Gript cannot discuss the exact circumstances that led to Mr. O’Shaughnessy becoming homeless, but he told us that losing his home was a “horror story” and that it has caused him to lose his “freedom” and sense of “autonomy”.
Derek says he doesn’t smoke and only takes a drink ‘when there’s something to celebrate like a book launch or something’.
He says he never thought he would end up in a homeless shelter as he says he is a quiet living person and a “good citizen” and a man that has ‘no bad habits’.
The 52 year old says he lost all his worldly possessions including an extensive collection of old books which he said he had been collecting for decades. He also said he lost an urn containing the ashes of his late niece who he says died when she was 28.
Derek says he’s moved around a bit in his time but that he thought the cottage he lived in for five years prior to his current situation would be somewhere he could live “without constraints” and pursue things like growing his strawberry plants.
He also lost possession of his pet cats during his ordeal but he says he entrusted them to the care of his neighbours.
“I was very fond of them,” he said adding, “they used to sleep on me, and some of them were even born on my bed,”.
He says he deeply regrets having to leave them as he feels they were his “siblings”, but that he had no choice.
He says that he is grateful for the accommodation that he pays €80 a week for but that his current living conditions are such that he shares a dorm with 25 to 30 other men.
He says that although the cost is low he laments thinking of the freedom he could ‘buy’ if he could afford private rented accommodation.
He says he had to fight to be accepted to the homeless hostel as he had no identification at the time he was made homeless and he was unable to retrieve this from his former home.
He says there’s an intercom system that goes off in the morning letting you know breakfast is ready, but that there are no facilities to make a cup of tea in the living quarters.
“Being made homeless made me appreciate the little things in life, coming and going as I please, growing little things, and being my own boss,” he says.
He says he used to complain about amenities in his former home not working but that looking back “the main value of life is the value of personal autonomy and making your own decisions”.
He says he finds it difficult to live with strict rules on comings and goings in the hostel and that the restricted hours of movement means he cannot go back to his former job.
“I have to leave the shelter by 11am in the morning and be back by 8pm,” he says, adding that it’s not too bad but that it means he can’t resume his former work and that he is currently reliant on the dole.
He says the gates are locked and not opened again until the evening return time.
“I get frustrated and angry at the world,” he says, adding that he feels like he’s stuck in a “catch 22 situation”.
He says there is little to no privacy in the hostel and that when he changes his clothes he has to wear a towel.
He said this is particularly difficult as he’s lived alone or at least had his own room for most of his life.
“I don’t do conversations in my underpants, let’s put it that way”, he says laughing.
He says he hopes that he will regain possession of his former home and have a chance to put things back in order but that he doesn’t know how long that could take.
Derek says he spends hours at a nearby library during the times when the hostel doors are closed trying to research ways to get his life back together.