By Rose Barrett
Kenny Eivers considers himself a lucky man. He spent many years trapped in addiction, time in prison and more years wandering from hostel to hostel in search of a bed.
Recently he gave his first guided tour with ‘Secret Street Tours’, a novel tour service established in our capital.
‘Secret Street Tours’ is a non-profit social enterprise founded by Tom Austin and Pierce Dargan, Trinity graduates who decided to make a comment on the current crisis while giving a voice to the homeless themselves, those who have lived on Dublin’s city streets.
Kenny, who is originally from Swords, is a recovered addict, and is currently sharing accommodation in Francis Street with fellow tour guide, Shane Howell from Cork.
He told Dublin Gazette: “I’m also doing a CE scheme with the Simon Community, working at a warehouse where the goods for charity shops are stored.
“We assess what’s suitable or good enough quality for the charity shops, and what is not and may be sent to recycle centres. It’s a routine, another step getting back to a ‘normal’ life, that is a life without drugs”.
The guided tour was established to give those in recovery a platform to voice their experiences having lived on the streets, while also giving them the skills to earn a little income towards their independent living.
It offers the public a channel to engage with one of Ireland’s most pressing social challenges. And with the aftermath of Covid-19 yet to be realised, and economic recession sure to follow, Kenny and others fear the homeless crisis is only going to get worse.
A first for Kenny
Kenny, who completed his first tour in early October, said: “All social distancing was observed, and all guests were encouraged to wear their masks.
“In my tour, I included the Sick and Indigent Roomkeepers’ Society, Dublin’s oldest surviving charity – and still in existence, 225 years later. I have studied many of the iconic buildings in our capital, so I would give a brief on Dublin Castle, and then as I walked through Castle Street, I would point out the methadone clinic which I attended for so long.
“After that, I’d walk up Ship Street, turn left onto Aungier Street, and I’d give a talk about the Carmelite Centre, where St Valentine’s remains lie. Then up by York House Hostel, run by the Salvation Army for 20 years. I would have spent four and a half years living there”.
Kenny then took his guests through South King Street and stopped at the Gaiety Theatre. “There, I did a spiel on the theatre, and notably, there is usually about 10 people sleeping rough there on any given night. I give the reasons – there’s some shelter there, plus it’s a safer part of Dublin.
“Over to Stephen’s Green next, before finishing at the statue to Lord Ardilaun or Sir Arthur Edward Guinness, great-grandson of the famous brewer, Sir Arthur Guinness. I gave a brief about myself, and what I’m hoping to do, how I’ve progressed and how hard my journey has been.
“People passing the homeless don’t realise how dangerous it is, how cold – it really is a horrible existence.
“The public often forget that the addict or homeless person might have been an abused or neglected child; or may suffer from untreated mental health issues. I’ve noted that so many mental health institutions were closed down in recent decades. Many residents of these places were left to live on their own and simply couldn’t cope. They do not have the life skills to cope on their own.”
Kenny, 44, can rightly feel proud of his journey which has come full circle from the cycle of addiction to now living independently, contributing to the Simon Community and via his work with Secret Street Tours, he is a voice for the homeless who are, he claims, too often, “unheard and unseen”.
“I’ve two tours booked this week,” said Kenny. “On Thursday and Friday, and I’m really looking forward to those, unless we move to lockdown before then.”