Wednesday 17 July 2019

Seven people died sleeping rough in less than three months, campaigners say

The Government is being called on to commit to housing every person sleeping rough in the capital by the end of the year
The Government is being called on to commit to housing every person sleeping rough in the capital by the end of the year

Seven people have died sleeping rough in less than three months in Ireland, anti-homelessness campaigners said.

This week, a middle-aged man was found unresponsive in a tent in school grounds in Ranelagh in south Dublin - and another, believed to be from Lithuania, succumbed outside the Four Courts.

The man outside the courthouse was aged in his late 30s and reportedly may have died due to a drug overdose, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said.

The Ranelagh victim had previously been offered shelter.

Mr Varadkar said 3,800 more social homes were due to be built next year to help take people off the streets, and committed to 200 extra emergency beds by the middle of next month.

He added: "The constraining factor will not be money from the Government.

"It will be the ability of site construction workers and others to build the houses that we desperately need."

The Peter McVerry Trust homeless charity said it was deeply saddened after two deaths in as many days this week.

It added: "Unfortunately, there have been an unprecedented number of deaths involving people sleeping rough since late August."

The latest bring to seven the number that have died in the past 12 weeks, the Trust confirmed.

It urged the Government to house every person on Dublin's streets by the end of next year.

"At present, we have just over 180 people sleeping rough in Dublin, and while that is the highest number on record, surely the Government can commit to ring-fencing 180 social housing units for our most vulnerable citizens?"

The Taoiseach said dozens of permanent and temporary beds were being made available soon; by the middle of next month 200 more would be created.

He told the Dail: "We want to get to the position where we are assured that there will be a bed and shelter available for everyone who needs it in the city over the winter period."

Some 184 people were counted bedding down in parks, streets, doorways and shopfronts across Dublin city on the night of November 7, a record number.

Pat Doyle, chief executive of the Trust, said: "Our heart goes out to them. It's freezing out there, it's not safe to be a rough sleeper."

There have also been increasing numbers of reports of rough sleepers pitching tents along the canals in Dublin and further out into the suburbs, while the biannual rough sleeper headcount is not considered a full picture of the total.

Some of the other deaths occurred in Drogheda, Cork and Bray.

Shane "Jack" Watson was a homeless man who died in Dublin in recent months. He had a number of sex convictions.

At the end of August, another man sleeping close to Grafton Street died.

Eoin O Broin, Sinn Fein housing spokesman, said: "The Government does not have the homeless crisis in hand."

He urged ministers to bring forward plans to open another 200 emergency beds to provide homeless accommodation during the winter.

PA Media

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