Today, he is an actor, a writer, a director, and an ambassador for the Dublin Simon Community — none of which would have been possible, he said, if a mystery woman and her boyfriend hadn’t stopped to talk to him on New Year’s Eve 1999.
Mr Gannon told his story to photographer Peter Varga, who runs the Humans of Dublin Facebook page. Within a few hours, the story went viral, with tens of thousands liking and sharing the story.
“The turning point of my life was a young girl in 1999 walking by with her boyfriend at Christchurch on New Year’s Eve.
“It was lashing rain and I was sitting on some concrete steps with my long hair and beard, listening to the bells, wondering where my family were and how they were,” he said.
“Out of nowhere the young girl knelt down in front of me, and like an angel with her blue eyes, said ‘Hi! What’s your name?’ I had to think. Nobody calls you by your name on the streets.”
The girl sat and asked him what he wanted in life. When he told her he wanted to see his family again, she told him he should just get up and go to them, regardless of how much time had passed.
“She’s out there somewhere not knowing what she did that day. The best thing you can take from this world is the belief that you made a difference. I went home the next day.”
Mr Gannon said he was “deeply humbled” that his story went viral, and hopes to change the perception people have of homeless people.