Internet café 'exploiting' homeless by charging €10 a night to sleep on chairs and floors
EXCLUSIVE: Internet café owner says he makes hundreds of euro a week
A Dublin internet cafe is "exploiting the homeless" and making "thousands of euro a week" by charging homeless people to sleep at their premises.
In exclusive images obtained by Independent.ie, people are seen sleeping on chairs, floors and under desks at the 5 Star Internet Cafe on Talbot Street, Co Dublin.
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 to Independent.ie that they have been allowing customers to spend the night, as long as they pay to use the internet.
Mr York Yan told Independent.ie 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.
"I just want to help each other, I need a business and they need a place to rest."
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 the Cllr Keegan's claim he is making thousands a week.
"I don't make thousands a week, it is about €700," he said.
"We have about 10 people a night."
Shop manager at the 5 Star Internet Cafe, Luke Ma said they have never been given any trouble.
"Some homeless people do stay here. They're nice, they give us no trouble. Some come in at 12 or 1am and pay €10 to use the internet for 12 hours. They can have a chair, hot water and coffee if they ask me," Mr Ma told Independent.ie.
"I don't know if they're always homeless, some might want to be near the bus station. It's open to all customers.
"On very cold nights it can be busy. There are three homeless people that are frequent customers. They don't like the hostels."
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?
"We don't need permission we're not a hostel, it's our premises."
Mr Ma said the customers "use the internet for a while and then fall asleep on the chairs".
"As long as they pay to use the internet they can stay. If I have any trouble I call the police. I've been here ten years so I know what I'm dealing with."
People Before Profit Councillor Andrew Keegan said the internet cafe is "exploiting the homeless".
"As far as I know the homeless people can come and go as they like during the night as long as they pay for the internet. Internet cafe's don't exist anymore, we all have mobile phones so they're making their money this way.
Mr Keegan said he visited the cafe and said "you only have to visit to see what's really going on".
"I went to the cafe during the day and there were up to 15 people there lying around. It was jammed packed and the computer screens weren't even on.
"I knew straight away that they were all homeless because they all had their bags with them. There was a smell because the people weren't able to wash or feed themselves. There was no toilet or cooking facilities."
Mr Keegan said that cafe was being used by homeless people to keep warm during the night.
"The cafe isn't a suitable place for them to be sleeping. I notified the Housing First Intake Team so they will have to go and check it out.
"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.
"Something needs to be done to find these people proper accommodation."
New figures released earlier this week showed that homeless figures have reached a new high in Ireland.
Some 4,760 adults and 2,407 children were homeless in January, an increase of the previous record high of 7,148 reached in December.
The situation remains worst in Dublin where 3,247 adults and 2,046 children are homeless.