by Leontine Mastenbroek
This morning a crew from UPS Ireland came to serve a man whose house had become unlivable. The team of 5 women and a man came to make a start with clearing the rubbish that must have accumulated over many years. We talked briefly about the six STC values over coffee before we went to the house.
The man, his social worker and a council employee who had built up a relationship with this man were all there when we arrived. Introductions were made. It looked like the man was not going to allow the crew to start work but, with humility and compassion, they warmed him up with their smiles and friendly banter. Soon buckets of rubbish were carried out. The team split in two, dressed in Tyvek suits, masks and gloves and took turns digging, filling, and carrying the buckets to the skip outside. The man stood at the skip and, with the help of his care workers, managed to resist taking too much out. That takes courage. The UPS crew managed to clear some of the hallway and the stairs. The rubbish is caked together and is difficult to dislodge. Plastic had disintegrated and it seems common household products and kitchen staples have mixed with other unidentifiable stuff. The UPS crew did trojan work and showed the man respect, love and care while they worked with him.
You wonder why the house got into such a state. The man told me that the house was built in 1934 and that he moved in in the seventies. Out of respect, I did not ask probing questions but from what I have seen before and from what went into the skip I could tell that this was a story of slow decline. Probably due to the absence of family, loneliness and embarrassment, the man had become a recluse in his own house. And when the four walls closed in on him he would have to go out. But where could he go in this urban area? To the shop. Once in the shop, something needs to be bought. What? Something useful, batteries, cleaning products, tools, etc. The local Aldi proved a treasure trove of all sorts. What could he say to the neighbours who wanted to chat on his way home? It was probably easier to ignore them. And then, back home, the enormity of his problems and loneliness hit him again. And he just stacked his latest purchase on top of the other ones. Maybe with a vague plan of reorganising it sometime or starting a project. But that just didn’t happen. And slowly a vicious circle developed, nearly impossible to break. Until the local health board got involved. The neighbours complained of the smell. The man ended up in the hospital. However, his treatment is long finished and he is quite well. But he has nowhere to go. His house is unlivable. Hence Serve the City got involved, social services get in touch and an assessment of the project is done. More crews will be sent out in the near future.
Serve the City Dublin does many of those projects, in all sorts of neighbourhoods. Loneliness is a great leveller. The UPS crew brought hope to the man who hopes he might live there again one day. They brought hope to the neighbourhood that would like to see the house inhabited again and looked after. They brought hope to the health care system and the hospital as this man does not belong in a hospital and occupies a bed that someone else needs.