Charity calls for beds to be ‘reopened urgently’ following death of ‘Jack’ Howlett-Watson

Homeless man died after being found unconscious on Dublin city centre street

‘Jack’ Howlett-Watson was found unconscious on a Dublin city centre street. He was later pronounced dead. Photograph: Geza Oravecz

‘Jack’ Howlett-Watson was found unconscious on a Dublin city centre street. He was later pronounced dead. Photograph: Geza Oravecz

 

Emergency rough-sleeper beds which have been closed since April must be “reopened urgently” following the death of man sleeping on a Dublin street, a homelessness charity has said.

“Jack” Howlett-Watson, a former chef in his 50s who returned from Australia a number of years ago , was found unconscious outside the Superdry shop on Suffolk Street at approximately 4am on Thursday. He was treated at the scene and taken by ambulance to St James’ Hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

Separately, a young homeless woman (26) was found dead on Thursday evening in the hotel room she shared with her two children, in Leixlip, Co Kildare. The woman, from Dublin, had recently been allocated a house by South Dublin County Council and was preparing to move in.

Neither death is being treated as suspicious.

Mr Howlett-Watson was known to a number of agencies and had stayed in Apollo House over Christmas. The vacant Apollo House office block in Dublin city centre was occupied by housing activists and homeless people in December, for accommodation and to highlight the number of unoccupied buildings in the city in the midst of a housing crisis.

Lisa Algan, a member of the Home Sweet Home group, which led the Apollo House occupation, described Mr Howlett-Watson as a “gentleman”, saying “he provided great help in the kitchen there”.

Anthony Flynn, founder of Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH), a voluntary support service for rough-sleepers, described the death as “completely unnecessary” and called for the reopening of 20 emergency beds at Wolfe Tone Quay which had been closed in April.

Mr Flynn said ICHH volunteers had engaged with him at about midnight and he seemed well.

A spokeswoman for the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) expressed the executive’s condolences to the man’s family.

“Statutory and state-funded voluntary homeless services had made a number of interventions with him since October 2015. In addition, other services had been engaging with him to access accommodation and relevant supports. The DRHE monitors the uptake of emergency accommodation on a daily basis.”

Mr Flynn said it was “urgent” that beds close earlier this year be re-opened.

“The number of individuals sleeping rough we are engaging with is now at an all-time high. Two weeks ago we engaged with 206 individuals on the streets. We would be prepared to take charge of the Wolfe Tone Quay hostel and operate it. Just open the beds.”

The DRHE spokeswoman said: “The service at Wolfe Tone Quay has 20 beds and is currently out of operation due to structural issues. The DRHE is currently working to provide a further 200 emergency accommodation beds to ensure that there is sufficient capacity.”

Homelessness volunteers are holding a candle-lit vigil outside Dáil Éireann at 8pm on Friday in memory of Mr Howlett-Watson.

The most recent official rough-sleeper count, conducted by the DRHE on April 4th, found 138 people on the capital’s streets, as well as 57 people on roll-out beds in the Merchants Quay night cafe, bringing the number of people unable to access an emergency bed on the night to 195.

These figures compared with 102 sleeping rough and 69 in the night cafe on April 24th, 2016, the night of the last “spring count”.

Campaigner Fr Peter McVerry, said homeless people died in tragic circumstances every month and not necessarily on the streets. “People are dying in hostels, dying from suicide, overdoses, and natural causes. That’s happening on a regular basis and the only ones we hear about are the ones found dead on the streets.”

He also noted the fact that the homeless community had a shorter life expectancy because of their circumstances living and sleeping rough.

“Living on the streets and living in hostels is shortening the lives of our homeless community. People do not get to eat properly which is totally wrong. Homeless people do not attend the doctor or the hospital often, and the problem reaches a crisis point when the person can no longer cope.

“Their general health deteriorates if people are living in hostels which they have to leave early in the morning and then walk the streets for the day. I think today’s tragic death highlights the fact that homeless people are more at risk of an early death than the rest of the population.”