THE Taoiseach took to the streets of Dublin last night to help homeless volunteers in the city.
The move came as the Government pledged that whatever funding is required to ensure no-one is forced to sleep on the streets of Dublin will be made available before Christmas.
Environment Minister Alan Kelly said an extra 200 emergency beds will be made available “within days and weeks”.
“If they want a bed, if they want accommodation, it will be there for them if they so choose,” he said outside the Government’s special summit on homelessness.
The announcement follows the death of Jonathan Corrie on a doorstep of Molesworth Street in the shadow of Leinster House on Monday.
It emerged this morning that Taoiseach Enda Kenny wanted to see for himself the work of a group of volunteers from Inner City Helping Homeless with people on the streets.
The Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) volunteer group conducted their nightly outreach programme, and alongside Lord Mayor Christy Burke and ICHH Director Anthony Flynn, Enda Kenny walked the streets interacting with the homeless who were offered food, warm drinks and clothing by one of the ICHH teams.
The 50-plus volunteers and Mr Kenny finished up at 2am having fed 136 people in the relatively small area of Temple Bar and Grafton Street.
“The Taoiseach was surprised to see the extent of the problem and said he would work with us on it,” Mr Flynn told the Herald.
“He was very recptive to the people he met and seemed shocked that many of them were there due to the economic situation and job losses.
“He took the details of many of the people and I get the impression that he will try and help.”
Environment Minister Alan Kelly yesterday said there should be no reason for anybody to sleep rough and vowed that whatever was rolled-out in the capital would be replicated around the country.
Dublin’s Lord Mayor was also in attendance at the summit alongside various NGOs, state agencies and Government representatives.
Christy Burke said it was probably “the most sincere meeting” he had ever attended with a minister in 30 years.
Meanwhile Mr Corrie’s former parter Catherine McNeill has spoken about the difficulties he faced during his life.
She said that, along with her children, she saw him on the street two years ago and gave him her phone number if he ever wanted to contact them.
“He was staying in a hostel up in Dublin and he stayed there for quite a while,” she said.
“Then he was talking to his daughter and he said he was bullied in one of the hostels and someone took his wallet so that’s why he didn’t stay there.”
She said he genuinely wanted help but wasn’t sure how to get it adding that she felt it could have made a difference. Ms McNeill and their children, Natasha (14) and Nathan (16), paid tribute to their father.
“My dad was a lovely, caring man but he had a cruel life. I always wanted him to stay with me when he was leaving to go back to Dublin, but he never could,” Natasha said.
“The last time I saw him was around two years ago and he didn’t look too well.”
Separately, the heartbroken mother of Mr Corrie has said her family did everything possible to help him. She and her late-husband bought Jonathan two houses, one after another, to live in.
Reverend Robert McCarthy, speaking on her behalf, said he understood that Jonathan had sold both houses. He added that the loving parents went to endless trouble to help him.
Ms Corrie said she also wanted it to be known that she was able to speak with her only son as recently as last week.
Rev McCarthy said Jonathan had a drug dependency but the cause of his death would not be known until a post-mortem examination had been completed.
Following the summit, the Lord Mayor rejected the idea that the minister’s promise to have everybody off the streets by Christmas was ambitious.
He said the minister had promised “all the money you want” to deal with the crisis.