Christy Burke finds pregnant teen (17) sleeping rough on city streets
Dublin's Lord Mayor makes revelation amid 'worrying trend'
Dublin’s Lord Mayor Christy Burke has revealed that he found a pregnant 17-year-old sleeping rough on the capital’s streets in what he has called a “worrying trend”.
Cllr Burke was speaking after the Herald reported on the rescue of a 24-year-old unconscious pregnant woman by homeless charity volunteers on O’Connell Bridge last week.
The new Lord Mayor has made the homeless crisis the central focus of his year-long tenure in office.
Cllr Burke, who is chairman of Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) said he discovered the pregnant 17-year-old last December in Dublin city centre.
The girl was sheltering in an industrial bin in Cow’s Lane off Dame Street using pieces of cardboard to act as a blanket.
“She was with her boyfriend, once she told me her age I informed her that I would have to notify social services,” said Mr Burke.
Cllr Burke has three decades of experience working with homeless people and volunteers every Wednesday night with ICHH’s outreach service in the city.
He believes there has been an increase in the number of pregnant women sleeping rough on the capital’s streets as the homeless crisis worsened this year.
“More recently I came across a homeless woman on the steps of St Stephen’s Green who told me she had given birth only six days previously,” he said.
“She had put child into care because she felt she did not have the capabilities at present to look after a baby,” he continued.
The disturbing revelations are indicative of the scale of the homeless epidemic in the capital.
Last Thursday the ICHH recorded 154 people sleeping rough in the north and south inner city.
It is the highest ever recorded figure for a rough sleeper count carried out by the service.
On the same night, volunteers rescued the 24-year-old pregnant woman on O’Connell Bridge. The young woman who is believed to be four months pregnant is currently recovering in a south-Dublin hospital.
Sam McGuinness, the chief executive of another homeless charity Dublin Simon Community said ICHH’s figures are credible adding: “There is no doubt the numbers of rough sleepers are increasing all the time.”
Cllr Burke welcomed the news that 80 additional long-term beds would be used by homeless services before the end of the year.
“Accompanying the measure are further support services which will address the reasons of their homelessness whether that be illness or addiction,” he added.
The new emergency beds mean that there are now almost 1,500 places for homeless people in the city.
Cllr Burke said he was also hopeful that the 420 ‘voids’ or empty flats and apartments that could be used by charities would receive adequate funding to strengthen long-term initiatives in the near future.
“The Taoiseach has said that he aims to eradicate homelessness by 2016, now that remains to be seen but if the political will is there we will be able to make real progress,” he said.
The Lord Mayor also called on the country’s MEPs to lobby for further resources in the European Parliament amid fears that Dublin is at risk of becoming the homeless capital of Europe.