Wednesday 18 October 2017

Homeless pair forced to sleep with the dead in city graveyard

The Mausoleum where homeless people have been sleeping rough at Glasnevin cemetery.
Photo: Tony Gavin 7/9/2017
The Mausoleum where homeless people have been sleeping rough at Glasnevin cemetery. Photo: Tony Gavin 7/9/2017
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

Two people are sleeping rough in a vault at Glasnevin Cemetery as the homelessness crisis continues to worsen.

The young man and woman have resorted to sleeping with the dead, with the accommodation debacle descending into an emergency on a national level.

Wrapped in a purple sleeping bag and lying on thin mats on the stone floor, it is the only shelter the pair can find.

News of the latest desperate sleeping arrangements comes after the Herald revealed that more than 50 homeless people died in the capital in 2014, when the homeless situation in Dublin was beginning to deepen, but was not as bad as it is now.

Violent

Last week we also highlighted how one man, John Keena, has decided to sleep in a tent in front of the Radisson Blu hotel in Stillorgan rather than stay in a shelter, where he does not feel safe because of exposure to addicts and violent people.

The vault in which the young man and woman share their nights, huddled together for warmth, had been broken open some time in the past.

Graffiti from many years ago can be seen on the internal walls.

The ornate tiled floor indicates that the structure itself, which is called an Oratory Double Vault, once contained human remains, but there are none there now.

The pair's meagre belongings were stored in bags beside them as they slept, and their worn shoes were left at the entrance while they tried to rest.

A spokesman for Glasnevin Trust, which controls the cemetery, said it assesses all issues brought to its attention and will do so in this instance.

"Glasnevin Trust encourages all those currently homeless to engage with the homeless services available," he said.

The historic cemetery, which opened in 1832, is the resting place of such historic figures as Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera, Daniel O'Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell and Roger Casement.

It is also where singer Luke Kelly and writer Brendan Behan have their final resting places.

This week, our investigation into the homelessness crisis in the capital discovered that 54 homeless men and women died in 2014 - a rate of more than one a week.

One leading charity compared the lives of Dublin's homeless to those of people "in a war zone".

The Herald had accessed the official figures concerning deaths among the homeless population across the capital's four local authorities in the wake of four tragedies in the past week.

However, the Dublin Homeless Regional Executive (DRHE) released figures for 2014 - just before the crisis really took hold.

Campaigners, charities and opposition politicians believe that, given the dramatic rise in homelessness figures in more recent years, the death toll must have increased each year since.

"It's like what's going on in war zone situations, where medical care becomes irrelevant," said Pat Doyle, CEO of the Peter McVerry Trust (PMVT).

"Safety and security become the priority, and for homeless people it's about, 'where can I bed down tonight?'.

"We had 19 deaths in our services this year in the trust. It was 15 deaths the year before and 13 the year before.

"We're providing more beds, so the more vulnerable people we are dealing with, the more likely the number of deaths will grow."

Outcry

Anthony Flynn, the director of Inner City Helping Homeless, said: "One death in the system is unacceptable, but 54 is scandalous.

"If this was another group of people, there'd be a national outcry.

"I firmly believe we aren't being given the 2015 to 2017 death figures because the death toll has risen dramatically, along with the growing number of homeless people.

"I genuinely think this is a failure to report the deaths of human beings and it could be part of the Government's new PR spin department's bid of not wanting to publish bad news."

The latest figures show that a record 1,178 families - with 2,423 children - are now homeless in the capital.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy met yesterday with the heads of local authorities from all over the country to discuss the homelessness crisis.

This follows the deaths of four homeless people in Dub- lin, Kildare and Cork last week.

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