Saturday 23 September 2017

Café charging homeless €10 to sleep accused of 'exploitation'

The 5 Star Internet Café on Dublin’s Talbot Street. Photo: Arthur Carron
The 5 Star Internet Café on Dublin’s Talbot Street. Photo: Arthur Carron
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

A Dublin internet cafe is "exploiting homeless people" by charging them to sleep at their premises.

Homeless people have been sleeping on chairs, floors and under desks at the 5 Star Internet Café on Talbot Street.

People Before Profit Councillor Andrew Keegan said the housing crisis is keeping the operation going and claimed they are making "thousands a week".

Both the manager Luke Ma and the café owner York Yan confirmed that they have been allowing customers to spend the night, as long as they pay to use the internet. Mr Yan said the situation is working for both the café and the people who need a bed. "Homeless people are coming in and we give them a special price," he said.

"It is normally €2 an hour for internet use, but we charge them €10, or €1 an hour, if they stay overnight.

"I need to pay staff, electricity, rates, tax.

"And they say that it is cold outside, that it's raining, that they can't stay outside and they don't want to sleep on the streets. They just want to go online, watch a movie or talk with a friend."

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When asked about the suitability of the café for overnight stays, Mr Yan said gardaí have come in and told them that homeless people cannot sleep on the premises.

"They said 'this isn't a hostel, they couldn't sleep here, they could go online but not sleep'. They just sit on the chairs and then have a sleep or rest on the desk."

The café has a bathroom for customer use, but has no washing facilities.

Mr Yan disputed Cllr Keegan's claims about how much they make. "I don't make thousands a week, it is about €700," he said. "We have about 10 people a night."

Mr Ma, manager at the 5 Star Internet Café, said they have never been given any trouble.

When asked about health and safety regulations, Mr Ma said they are safer inside than outside. "What am I to do? Kick them out in the freezing cold to die?"

People Before Profit Councillor Mr Keegan said the internet café is "exploiting the homeless".

Mr Keegan said he visited the café and said "you only have to visit to see what's really going on".

"Health and safety regulations definitely weren't taken into account, never mind insurance. It's a misuse of premises and a breach of planning permission."

Irish Independent

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