His Name Was Jack


Jack during a shoot for ‘A Beautiful Day In Dublin’ homeless project; Justin Casey

On Thursday morning, in Suffolk Street, Dublin 1, former chef ‘Jack’ Howlett-Watson, who had been sleeping rough in the Superdry shopfront, was found unconscious and later pronounced dead at St James’s Hospital.

That evening, a 26-yearold woman was found dead in the hotel room she shared with her two children, in Leixlip, County Kildare.

Justin Casey was a team leader during the occupation of Apollo House by homlesssness activists last Christmas.

Justin writes:

Today we are faced with a daunting reality subjective to the current housing crisis to which our country is submersed.

With figures of families and individuals caught within the social stigma of homelessness constantly on the rise it saddens me to witness that it takes the loss of life in order to bring the crisis to the forefront of the public, media and government alike.

Recent reports provided by Focus Ireland have highlighted that in July alone, over 99 families have become homeless for the first time. With over 8,000 individuals accessing homeless services and emergency accommodation at present it seems that nothing is being done to help prevent the increase of people in Ireland being left without a home.

This week within 24 hours a man and a woman have lost their live in two separate incidents. Both of whom had been accessing homeless services.

It is with a heavy heart I write this as personally through the Apollo house initiative during the winter months leading up to Christmas 2016 I had the honour of meeting and getting to know Jack.

His death is gradually becoming the driving force among members of the community to speak out and stand up for those failed by the system.

With certain media outlets headlining the story ‘’Rough Sleeper dies in Dublin’’ we are left with the callous ideology that a man is to be defined by his situation.

I am outraged by the social acceptance to portraying such a horrendous concept and feel strongly that in both life and death that all individuals should be defined by character alone and not the circumstances to which they are bound.

I first met Jack when he walked into Apollo house. I was volunteering as support team leader.

In my opinion Jack was a very educated and proud individual. He held his head high and was not put off by the daily issues which would get the better of most faced with similar circumstances.

He had a strong handshake and a heart of gold, always first up to make a  cup of tea for new residents entering Apollo House.

Jack made an Impact which the staff could not, as when a new resident came into Apollo he would offer to show them around and instantly this would help to neutralise any reservations or worries they may have as he was a resident and not approaching from a ‘staff’ prospective.

You could always find Jack in the kitchen where he found his sense of purpose, and rightly so as he possessed extensive culinary skills.

In terms of his personal life Jack was a very reserved man. In my personal opinion, I suspect this was as a result of constantly being bounced from pillar to post, as having to introduce yourself each time you avail of a new homeless service is very discouraging.

Each one making the same promises as the last but seldom ever delivered.

In my experience refraining from opening up about your personal life can be a very effective defence mechanism to restrict personal connections in the hope of minimising any emotional aspects or damage.

Nevertheless Jack displayed an amazing sense of determination and strength as he progressed in a manner that would inspire each and every one of us. While faced with what seemed an overwhelming situation, the true beauty of his character still prevailed.

I just hope that his passing may not be in vain and that it sparks an immediate call of positive and prominent change in both the system and the light in which those caught in the system are viewed.

Justin Casey is a former rough sleeper and homelessness activist.

Previously: Terry McMahon on Apollo, Coveney And Lying For A Living

Top pic: Geza Oravecz

48 thoughts on “His Name Was Jack

  1. Joe cool

    I tried not to read it as it would more than likely make me extremely angry. I love my country but day by day, with each passing disgrace, I’m getting fed up. Our health services is in pieces. People cannot afford a home. Not one bastard who ruined this country held responsible for their actions. Almost 3000 children homeless. The only way to survive this country is to be as corrupt as humanly possible. But it’s ok, the media (bar b.s.) brush everything under the carpet. But they will report that the Taoiseach is gay and wears funny socks. It makes me sick to my teeth.

  2. Catherinecostelloe

    Thank you Justin. The fat cats will be chauffeured home tonight in state vehicles that we pay for, fill up with petrol that we pay for and more yak, yak, yak. We might have more muffin topped politicians spread eagled tanning their leather arses on an exotic beach abroad. They DONT care.
    Rest in Peace Jack.

  3. Jocky

    The “homeless” on Dublin streets have exactly the same profile as other big cities I’m very familiar with. They are overwhelming alcoholics, junkies and druggies. And the mentally ill who refuse treatment or to take their medication. The rest are with a few exceptions the usual drifters, runaways or just plain beggars and layabouts and petty criminals. What almost all have in common is that they are on the streets by *choice”. They refuse to stick with rehab programs. They refuse to take medication. Or they refuse to move to somewhere where accommodation is much much cheaper and more readily available.

    There are always genuine cases about. But they stick out like sore thumbs. After decades of seeing literally hundreds of these people on a daily basis in the “homeless” capital of the US and after hearing absolutely every bullshit story imaginable if I see anyone who looks anyway out of the ordinary from the usual street people type I will always stop and ask if everything is OK. In all cases I guessed correctly and the situation was usually in hand but the person was always grateful for being noticed. On a few occasions I bought them a meal and once or twice gave them enough money to make a difference. To get them back to relatives. On average I make one of these stops maybe three or four time a year. Not that often. A number that has not changed over the decades despite the literally tens of thousands of “homeless” people who have passed through the city. Very few are actually from San Francisco. And very few are not on the streets because of choices they have deliberately made.

    But all the rest, the general street people. Bullshit artists. The real tragedy is the mentally ill but as “patients rights” people seem to have the upper hand at the moment the mentally ill will remain on the streets as long as it is made so difficult to get involuntary commitment orders in these situations. The rest, flip ’em.

    The term Homeless was invented by the Homeless industry. With is very lucrative for those involved. Invent a problem which by its very definition can never ever be solved. Because the problem has nothing with these people not having a “home”. I dont know what the numbers are for Dublin but in San Francisco the Homeless Industry provides work for several thousand middle class do-gooder types and costs the taxpayer over $35,000 a year for every “homeless” person on the streets . So despite $200M plus being spent every year, year in year out, the number of street people has remained pretty much the same over the last few decades.

    Before the term Homeless was invented, back in the 1970’s, Dublin has quite a few street people. People living rough. Mostly when they could not afford a bed for the night in one of the doss houses. When you factor out the junkies and druggies, which was very much of a mid 80’s onwards phenomenon, the number was not that different from today. Nor was the reasons for being there. The only difference now is that you have the same number of people, on the streets for the same kind of reason, but a very large and lucrative parasitical industry that make a comfortable living from the problem. Which will never go away.

    The perfect little scam really. The Homeless Activists that is.

      1. Jocky

        Haha I love all the good Samaritans here praying that I fall on hard times and die alone on the streets just to prove a point.
        It’s not going to happen boys.

          1. Teresa

            I doubt Topsy would meet anyone here. He has too much fun being a troll and hurling angry insults. A class act.

    1. Padraig

      I am so disgusted by that drivel I would like my rationality to give way and punch you fair in the nose.

      I have worked with the homeless on and off in a couple of countries, helped a few lives get back on track. Drugs are a problem the same as the alcoholic in suburbia. Your ignorance is reprehensible, humanity non-existent and you could do with lifting out of that exceptionalism bubble.

      1. Joe cool

        Bad at memes. sir, please except this as an apology. I assumed you were some sort of weirdo. But I was wrong. I’m beginning to like you

      2. Jocky

        Somebody made a post and said I made some interesting points and it was upvoted. How is it not going well?

        1. JS

          Yeah I can only one (heavily downvoted) commment on the reply. I fail to see how this disagrees with what he said.

      3. badatmemes

        10 / 10 for trying, but ‘going well’ on Reddit means front page.
        I wouldn’t hold you to that standard, but you’re not even on the front page of r/ireland… the next day!

        Fantasy is not a virtue.

    2. No, the other one

      Thanks for saying it as it is Jocky. As soon as we start to truly analyse what’s going on and desist from all the useless hand-wringing, we might get a start towards a solution.

    3. Nigel

      So glad to know that the homeless crisis is invented and not real and the people who help homeless people are evil and homeless people are evil and the fact that you can’t commit people at the drop of a hat is evil. Thank you for thew precise and carefully-sourced figures and data which you used to show that the homeless crisis is invented. Those made every single you said impressively authoritative. Your unerring ability to make correct guesses is a brilliant superpower, too.

  4. retroboy

    Justin Casey?

    No way! this was our Dublin slang in the studio for a safety-copy of a tape – a “Just In-Casey”.

    Listen to this man, are we not ashamed that this happens on the streets of our glorious capital?

    Passed by this at 9am yesterday, knew something not good had happened.


  5. Jocky

    We had 1.1 million houses/apts in 1990 and now have over 2 million. The population has seen a much smaller increase so its not about houses.

  6. Milo

    The people who are using this poor guys death to further their own self loathing agenda are the actual cruelty they imagine and blame. They pick Justin’s and Savitas to prop up their ideology while ignoring all the deaths that don’t suit their narrative. RIP Justin, and back off you whoring “justice and shame” gowls.

    1. Nigel

      How dare they try to further the self-loathing agenda of dealing with the ever-worsening homeless crisis.

  7. sparkilicious

    Tragic end for this poor man. May he rest in peace. There is a chronic shortage of social housing in this country and may the pressure be maintained on politicians until this situation is ameliorated. But those who think rough sleeping would end tomorrow if every one currently on the streets was provided with a house/apartment are living in cloud cuckoo land. Human psychology and frailty is such that homelessness in its most hardcore sense i.e. rough sleeping, will always be with us. Of course the State should provide all reasonable supports, but the ‘I can’t believe this is happening in 2017’ school of outrage is utterly naive. True liberalism means respecting a person’s choice to live as they wish. Those working in homeless/drug services will be the first to tell you that offers of assistance are often turned down for sundry reasons. The saddest of reasons for refusals of offers of help are those connected to mental illness. Involuntary commitals may be appropriate in some situations but such an approach becomes more and more questionable as you move down the scale of severity of mental illness.

  8. Otis Blue

    Amid all the point scoring and finger pointing, we should recognise just how easy it is to slip between the cracks. One way or another, we all do. Eventually.

    RIP Jack.

  9. Serval

    “With certain media outlets headlining the story ‘’Rough Sleeper dies in Dublin’’ we are left with the callous ideology that a man is to be defined by his situation.”
    1. Maybe the headline should have read “Person dies in Dublin”.
    2. Mentioning one aspect of a person’s situation is not defining a person by that aspect of their situation.
    3. Is the headline “Geography Teacher Wins Lotto Jackpot” a callous ideology.that a man is to be defined by his situation?

  10. Cian

    There were 30,500 deaths in Ireland last year from a population on 4.68 million. That’s 1 death for every 153 people.
    If there are 8,000 homeless, and they die at the same rates as the general population[1], you would expect 52 deaths per year. One dead person per week. Every week.

    I don’t think there have been 35 deaths amongst the homeless so far this year. So the homeless are dying at a lower rate than the rest of the population.

    [1] this isn’t a fair comparison as I should correct for the age-profiles – more older people die each year, and there are fewer older homeless – but as a back of envelope calculation it puts it into perspective. Take any group of 8000 people and a few will dies each year.

    1. A snowflake's chance in hell

      It should also be corrected for the fact that many homeless people take drugs, drink to excess, had other health or mental issues, and thus are likely to die at a faster rate than the general population anyway.

      I’ve got to the point where there are so many pearl-clutching numpties shrieking on about the homeless while themselves living high on the hog, taking several holidays a year and/or labelling this a ‘crisis’ that I genuinely don’t care any more, most people I see on the streets are druggies and junkies and contribute nothing to society

        1. Bookworm

          It’s a cruel world Nigel

          Why should Snowflake’s chance in hell need a pretext? And what are you doing about it?

          1. Nigel

            That question is better addressed to Snowflake don’t you think? And why should I do anything about Snowflake’s need for a pretext? That’s Snowflake’s problem.

          2. A snowflake's chance in hell

            NO think you brought it up Nigel

            I don’t need permission from you or any well-meaning SJW to express my opinion

          3. Nigel

            I’m neither granting nor withholding permission, Snowflake, I just think it’s hilarious that you claim you used to have empathy for the homeless until somebody went on two holidays so now you think they’re all alcoholics.

    2. Jocky

      Bingo. I get abused every time these stories crop up and I ask what sbout the 100 other people who died yesterday.

    1. Daisy Chainsaw

      Any dirt on the other 2 homeless people who died? Just to make sure that we demonise them all as if to say their deaths on the streets was somehow justified and deserved…

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