Thursday 17 October 2019

Minister agrees to spend night in homeless shelter after he is challenged by teen

Minister of State for Housing, Damien English. Picture: Collins
Minister of State for Housing, Damien English. Picture: Collins
Laura Lynott

Laura Lynott

Damien English has publicly agreed to sleep at a hostel for homeless people after he was challenged by a teenager who has been sleeping rough for a year.

The Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Mr English, agreed at the AGM for the Irish Council for Social Housing that he would sleep in a hostel, after the teenager complained about one particular facility in Dublin.

During questions from the floor, at the end of Minister English’s lengthy speech on the provision of social and affordable housing, 19-year-old ‘Brian Middleton’ stood up and said: "I’ve been sleeping on the street for a year, I want to know if the Minister will spend three days on the freephone and if not what that reveals…?"

Minister English responded that he was "engaged" with a "lot of people" and understood there were issues.

"Does this mean you’ll stay in a bed?" Mr Middleton asked. 

Minister English said he’d heard the name of the particular hostel "mentioned a lot".

He added he’d "spend some time there."

But Mr Middleton, originally from London, was not happy with this and asked did that mean the Minister would stay at the hostel and take "a bed".

"I will do, I’ve no problem doing it, I’ll do it, I’ll do it," Minister English responded. 

He added that he would do this in a "quiet way", and "not as a media thing".

The teenager, who has used another name for this report, left his London home after a fall-out with family, has been sleeping rough for some time and is hoping to soon rebuild his life but says he’s been unable to claim benefits in Ireland.

The young man, who admits he came from a "comfortable" background, said he felt the politicians in Ireland had lost sight of the human toll the housing crisis was having on people.

"I’d be happy if the Minister did as he said," Mr Middleton said.

The teenager, who dreams of becoming a writer and travelling across Europe, said he wanted to divulge the seriousness of the effects of homelessness on his friends, including one Irish Traveller, who he said had been on the streets for 20 years and was blind.

"I have no confidence in the Irish Government," he sid.

"They (politicians) see most homeless people as beggars, emotional manipulators.

"There is no connection to us being human beings."

He complained about the standard of homeless hostels in Dublin, including drug-taking and violence.

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