Local volunteers pay tribute to ‘polite, placid’ Jack ahead of vigil

By Aura McMenamin

A vigil will be held tonight outside the Dail to remember the ‘polite, placid’ man who died while sleeping rough in Dublin this week.

Homeless outreach volunteers have spoken fondly about the man they called ‘Jack’ ahead of tonight’s vigil at 8pm.

jack collageJack after a recent makeover for a project by Geza Oravecz

51-year-old Jack was discovered unconscious by emergency services at approximately 4am yesterday on the Suffolk Street footpath. He was taken to St James’ Hospital where he was treated and later pronounced dead.

Tallaght man Justin first met Jack, who had a distinguishable Australian accent and did not reveal his real name, while he was volunteering in Apollo House, the city-centre building occupied by housing activists, trade unionists and artists to house the homeless last Christmas.

Justin remembered the man as ‘educated and proud’: “He had a strong handshake and a heart of gold. He was always first to make a warm cup of tea for new residents entering Apollo house.”

Justin said that Jack would take it upon himself to approach new residents and ‘neutralise any reservations or worries’ they had.

Writing on Facebook, several volunteers remember Jack in the kitchen of Apollo House, preparing food and helping to ‘keep the place spotless’.

Justin said: “Jack owned the kitchen. It was his sense of purpose and rightly so as he possessed extensive culinary skills and helped to keep both staff and residents on the go with some incredible meals.”

Similarly, Kiera Gill from A Lending Hand, a city centre soup run, remembered a ‘placid’ man who would help fellow homeless people.

Ms Gill, who organised tonight’s vigil, said she met Jack a year ago. She said: “He would help with the soup run. He would always have your back and sometimes diffuse situations if something kicked off.

“Even if we were really busy and taking too long to serve him, he never complained.”

Bernadette Fagan from the Humans Too mobile outreach team occasionally encountered Jack during her mobile soup run.

The Lucan woman said she ‘woke up in tears’ upon hearing the news of his death yesterday. She said never saw Jack sleeping rough: “We never came across him at a doorway, he was always up and about.”

Geza Oravecz photographed Jack in May as part of her project, “A Beautiful Day in Dublin” to ‘put a spotlight on the homeless’. She said she was ‘speechless’ to learn of his death.

A garda spokesman said: “Gardai in Pearse Street are investigating the sudden death of a man aged 51.

“The man was discovered unconscious on the footpath on Suffolk Street at approximately 4am. He was treated at the scene and taken by ambulance St. James Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

“The Coroner has been notified and a post-mortem examination will be carried out. Foul play is not suspected at this time.”

Ms Gill said: “He was loved. It’s just shocking. For a man that [appeared to be] clean... The fact is that he slept on the streets to avoid hostels which are dangerous. And then he died on the street.”

Justin said he last spoke to Jack briefly at 9pm on Wednesday night: “It is a daunting thought to think I may have been one of few people to see him last alive.”

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