'In a lot of respects, I didn't exist' - former rough sleeper says An Post address would have given him an identity

Derek McGuire, a former rough sleeper, says the free personal address offered by An Post would have helped him recover his sense of identity.

He became homeless in late 2014 after a relationship ended and had been unable to pay the mortgage on the family home.

“I was on the streets for just over a year. My circumstances were very complicated – I found it difficult to access emergency accommodation because I was still tied to the property,” he said.

After becoming 'resigned' to living on the streets, he soon lost all of his possessions and his sense of identity.

I did not have a passport or a driving licence. In a lot of respects, I didn't exist.

With both his physical and mental health deteriorating he found it difficult to access GP services and keep hospital appointments.

“I would turn up in a hospital emergency department because I just did not have the necessary documentation to get medical help any other way.”

Mr McGuire, who spent 25 years working in the voluntary sector, is currently living in temporary accommodation provided by the Dublin Simon Community.

Since last Christmas, he has been leading a Secret Street Tour through the Liberties, which has been prompted by the capital's homeless crisis and includes areas where he slept rough.

Launching Address Point at the GPO in Dublin, the managing director of An Post Retail, Debbie Byrne, said the new service was for people like Mr McGuire who were homeless or living in temporary accommodation.

“We are keenly aware of the difficulties which can result from people not having a reliable, secure mailing address or letter collection point to access vital services we all take for granted and in looking for a job,” said Ms Byrne.

An Post is providing all the charities, service providers and local authorities with information leaflets about Address Point to help them advise their clients about accessing the service.

Everyone who registers using a mobile phone or laptop will be given an address when they choose a post office from where they want to collect their mail.

People will have to give their first and middle name when registering. Their address will be where the post office is located but it will not state that it is a post office.

The service will be provided by almost 200 post offices throughout the country and mail can be collected at the post office of choice when photo ID is produced.

If a person moves to a new locality, a new address can be immediately generated, linked to a post office in the new location. An Post will keep letters for 20 working days after which they will be returned to the sender.

National secretary of St Vincent de Paul, Andy Heffernan said An Post's Address Point service was a very practical response to a very human issue.

“It is an indictment against Ireland that we have to come up with ideas like this in 2019,” said Mr Heffernan.

We are essentially dealing with the symptoms of the problem, which is all about supply and infrastructure.

Mr Heffernan said An Post had come up with a very practical response and it would be a win-win situation if it helped remove some of the stigma surrounding homelessness.

Inner City Helping Homeless was delighted with An Post's new service that allowed dignity and discretion for the victims of the current homelessness emergency.

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