Monday 18 June 2018

Some 30 rough sleepers refused emergency shelter last night as temperatures plunged

The Emergency Homeless Shelter in St Catherine's Hall Marrowbone Lane. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
The Emergency Homeless Shelter in St Catherine's Hall Marrowbone Lane. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
The Emergency Homeless Shelter in St Catherine's Hall Marrowbone Lane. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
The Emergency Homeless Shelter in St Catherine's Hall Marrowbone Lane. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
O’Connell Street last night. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Catherine Devine and Conor Feehan

Some 30 rough sleepers in Dublin refused to sleep in emergency shelters last night as snow storms and freezing temperatures hit.

More than 100 homeless people made a Dublin sports hall their home last night in emergency accommodation set up to combat the freezing weather.

The Emergency Homeless Shelter in St Catherine's Hall Marrowbone Lane. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
The Emergency Homeless Shelter in St Catherine's Hall Marrowbone Lane. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

As temperatures in the city dropped to -5 degrees the centre being run by the Fr Peter McVerry Trust was a hive of activity this morning as breakfast was being served.

The unit, funded by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) and run by the McVerry Trust, was set up in St Catherine’s Sports Hall on Marrowbone Lane on Monday.

Since then it has helped dozens of homeless, half of which had never presented to services before.

Pat Doyle, CEO of the McVerry Trust said: “We had 70 beds here on Monday and accommodated 45 men, then on Tuesday we had 90 beds and accommodated 81. But last night we had 110 beds and 106 people came in,” said Pat Doyle, CEO of the McVerry Trust.

All around the sports hall men were being given breakfast at designated tables. Unlike a lot of hostels and B&B accommodation, the homeless men can stay in St Catherine’s during the day as Storm Emma approaches.

“People are free to go if they want to, but we are encouraging them to stay because the weather is so bad,” said Pat.

The Emergency Homeless Shelter in St Catherine's Hall Marrowbone Lane. Photo: Kyran O'Brien.
The Emergency Homeless Shelter in St Catherine's Hall Marrowbone Lane. Photo: Kyran O'Brien.

Sixteen staff will stay in the centre tonight as Storm Emma hits, and they will help ensure the safety and comfort of the men seeking shelter.

“It only took us six hours to set up the shelter. It’s a big hall and it was quite cold, so we brought in marquees and have the beds in them. It makes it easier to heat and gives a bit more privacy and dignity to our clients,” said Mr Doyle.

“We have blow heaters running, and as well as their breakfasts the men will get a lunch of soup and sandwiches, and a hot dinner too. Yesterday it was cottage pie or chicken casserole,” he added.

The meals are made by McVerry Trust caterers and brought to the shelter before being distributed.

As well as food and a bed for the night, the homeless clients are supplied with ‘dignity packs’ of toiletries and hygiene products, as well as fresh clothing, sleeping bags and shower facilities.

“We have other services on offer too. It's not just food and shelter. We have a nurse’s station run by a not for profit group called Safety Net which is funded by the HSE and looks after homeless people.

“So far we have had four ambulances to the centre after long-term deteriorating medical conditions from being homeless manifested themselves in the clients,” Pat explained.

“One worrying thing we have noticed is that many of the people here now have never availed of homeless services before because they have been living in squats and things.

“We will now try and keep them in the system. We have different services we can direct them to and we don't just want them to drift off into obscurity once this centre closes,” he added.

“There is a review next Monday to see what will happen to the centre, but for the moment during this weather it is vital for keeping people off the cold streets,” said Pat.

“There are no ladies beds here, but we have 20 emergency ladies beds in Ellis Quay and ten more in Finglas,” he added.

Staff are working longer shifts to cover the needs of the clients, and Pat and more than a dozen workers will also be bedding-down in the centre tonight as the worst of the weather is expected.

Speaking on RTE, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy said that tonight there will be a bed and shelter for everyone.

"Storm Emma hasn't hit the country yet. At 4pm, we're expecting it to hit the east and make its way across the country. What we've been experiencing so far is the 'Beast from the East' but Storm Emma is coming now.

"The National Emergency Co-ordination group will meet today at 10:30am. We are constantly in contact and in operation. People should pay attention to the latest developments."

Mr Murphy said that the outreach teams will continue to engage with rough sleepers today as Storm Emma hits.

"We will continue to get our outreach teams out to people, even though they might have refused to come in last night, to get them to come in and know that it is going to get much worse tonight. Organisations like the Peter McVerry Trust have emergency accommodations in place. There they have medical teams, heating, beds, food and specialist staff. It is safe and secure accommodation."

According to the latest figures available - published on Wednesday - 9,104 people are sleeping in emergency accommodation including more than 3,000 children.

Mr Murphy said that this increase was "anticipated".

"The increase was anticipated because as we bring people from sleeping rough on the streets into our emergency services, they are then counted as being homeless in emergency accommodation, it's a different way of counting. Because we brought in 200 additional beds in the last quarter of last year and then opened up another 100 beds as part of our cold weather initiative... those people have been brought into our services and are counted then. We don't want to see those numbers go up.

"We have two counting systems - one is for people who are in emergency accommodation and are in our services and are getting care and support. People who are sleeping rough are counted differently. As they come into the emergency services they are moved from one count to another. That's one reason why that number has increased."

However, Mr Murphy confirmed that "official homeless figures have increased".

"They are above 9,000 yes there is an increase. What we have seen over the last few days is that more people are presenting for emergency accommodation.

"There is also an increase in families who are homeless, which wasn't anticipated."

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