Walk in my Shoes event tells the real stories behind homelessness

By Mary Dennehy

THE real stories of Tallaght’s homeless were heard last weekend, when a powerful and attitude-changing community-led project took centre stage for two days.

While the issue of homelessness has been receiving great coverage in recent years, it’s not very often that those affected by homelessness are given the space to be more than just a statistic – and tell their own story.

Walk in My Shoes 02 06 October 2016

However, a unique event in Tallaght last weekend called Come Walk in My Shoes provided people with the opportunity to talk about their experiences of homelessness in an intimate and personal way – a way which stripped away preconceptions around homelessness, showing the person and families behind the label.

The event was organised by a cluster of Tallaght parishes, St Kevin’s, St Kilian’s, St Mary’s, St Aengus’s and St Dominic’s, in collaboration with Tallaght Community Arts (TCA) and with support from Focus Ireland Tallaght, the Intercultural Centre and local social justice groups.

Alongside story-telling, each participating church had a number of tents erected on their grounds, which told their own story through the use of various items like sleeping bags, pillows and quotes from members of the homeless community – and those who work with them.

One of the most striking images of the day, was the worn shoes, of all sizes, that were lined up on each altar.

Walk in My Shoes 01 06 October 2016

Gerry Bates, one of the event’s organisers, told The Echo: “The event certainly achieved its aim, which was to have the stories of our homeless people heard.

“It was an unusual experience but very powerful and I believe that through listening to these stories that perceptions were changed.”

He added: “One of the most impacting parts of the weekend for me was Joe and Rachel’s story.

“Joe and Rachel were homeless together in Tallaght and sadly Rachel passed away.

“At the weekend, we set up a tent with some of Rachel’s belongings in it – including a teddy bear wearing a pair of rosary beads, a statue of Mary, which a parishioner in the Priory gave to her, a pair of her shoes and some other items that meant the world to her.”

On Saturday the High Hopes Choir, supported by the All-Ireland Peace Choir, gave a roof-raising performance in St Maelruain’s Church of Ireland in Tallaght Village.

The team behind Come Walk in my Shoes wished to thank Fianna Fáil councillor Charlie O’Connor, who represented the County Mayor at the performance, and also the Old Bawn transition-year students, who retold the homeless stories of children, Bishop Eamon Walsh, who attended the event on Sunday, Jonathan Power from Concern, and all of the participants and members of the community and parishes who engaged.

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