Saturday 17 February 2018

‘There’s no option but to sleep on the streets’ – former builder desperate for sanctuary assaulted as he slept

Thomas McKeown
Thomas McKeown

Laura Lynott

A homeless man living in the ruins of a Dublin castle has issued a desperate plea for sanctuary after he was assaulted as he slept.

Thomas McKeown (55), from Dun Laoghaire, has been homeless for two years after his rent increased to beyond an affordable point.

A former builder, Thomas has been on the streets ever since, and recently has been taking nightly refuge in the ruins of Wheelers Castle in Monkstown.

Thomas said he is living in fear after he was assaulted. His attacker hit him over the head with a stick – and he required several stitches to his skull as a result.

“I was evicted in 2014. I was a labourer all my life, I worked for Dun Laoghaire Council for a while, but then I suffered depression, I took sick and then my rent was increased to beyond affordable levels and I had nowhere to go,” he told the Herald.

“I have asked to be housed in emergency accommodation, a hotel or B&B but Dun Laoghaire Council told me they don’t offer this service for single homeless people.

“The only option I’m left with is to try to get in to hostels every night. My doctor advised I can’t do that due to my lung condition, I don’t want to catch infections off anyone else. And I can’t handle hostels with my depression.

“So, there was no other option for me other than to sleep on the streets, and the castle seemed to be the best option – but it’s half derelict, so there is no protection from the elements and it’s getting much colder.”

Thomas is concerned that sleeping rough will make his condition – spores on the lungs – worse.

Speaking about the attack, he said: “He hit my head with a stick and I blacked out on the floor and then woke up dizzy, so I phoned gardai and went to hospital.

“I lost a lot of blood and had to have stitches. They cared for me in the hospital and they do every time I go, but then I have to come back to this – to the street – and no one cares then.”

Thomas claims he has been waiting on the Dun Laoghaire social housing list for 15 years.

Dun Laoghaire Council would not comment on the case and issued a response to Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, a Dublin City Council group responsible for homelessness.

“The four Dublin local authorities are experiencing an unprecedented demand for access to emergency accommodation,” said a spokeswoman.

“Dublin City Council is advanced in work to expand emergency accommodation provision and will be bringing an additional 210 bed spaces into use as soon as possible as part of it’s winter strategy to prevent rough sleeping.”


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