'I'm scared to be living in a tent, it's so cold out here... I'm afraid I will die before Christmas'
A young woman who is sleeping rough within the grounds of a church as temperatures plummet below zero this weekend has said: "I'm afraid I won't live to see Christmas."
Aisling Connolly (29) is sleeping outside Mount Argus Church in Harold's Cross, Dublin, in a tent with temperatures set to reach as low as -5C by Monday.
Ms Connolly has been homeless for more than a year and although she had been living in a hostel, she has now found herself back on the streets.
"It makes me very upset. I'm scared to be living in a tent, it's not going to be Christmas," she said. "I'm afraid I won't live to see Christmas, that I won't live through this weather or stress. It's so cold out here. I'm afraid I won't wake up.
"I'm sick, I keep getting chest infections and it feels like the world has forgotten I'm here. My partner is the only one there for me."
Ms Connolly originally spoke out last November, claiming she'd been raped in the midlands in July and gardaí began investigating the incident. It was at this stage she left her home and moved to Dublin thinking she would gain assistance in the city.
She has found homelessness tough. The young woman keeps herself clean despite sleeping rough, going to swimming pools for showers and having her clothes washed once a week. She wept as she described her heartbreak at what life has become and of "not progressing".
"I've been homeless for more than a year and I was in a place but it wasn't working out because co-habiting with your partner is against the rules and now instead of being on housing assistance payment (HAP) and moving into my own place, there's nothing. I've actually gone back worse than the situation I was in a year ago," she said.
"I'm only six stone and I'm worried for my health, for my safety. I'm waiting to become a crime scene, to have been attacked or to die with hypothermia. It feels like we aren't even being treated as human beings anymore."
Ms Connolly said she and her partner, who lost his job after he became homeless, moved to the church grounds around a month-and-a-half after sleeping rough in the city. They chose the church as a safe haven, feeling there would be some sympathy for their situation there.
She also claims she has been approached by homeless men when alone on the street.
"Men can be very intimidating out here on the street. It's a dangerous place for a woman to be," she said. "I understand a lot of people in Dublin are maybe tired of homelessness because it's all they see, they see people begging and it's just everywhere. I wouldn't do that. But I just need a chance, my partner needs a chance - we need a home, a life, like everyone deserves."
A spokesperson for the Dublin Region Homeless Executive told the Irish Independent it was "aware" of the case.