Officials dispute claim that rough sleepers were denied beds in cold weather

Charity says at least 86 people could not get a bed on Tuesday - a figure repeated in the Dáil

Figures released on Wednesday show there was a 2 per cent drop in the numbers of homeless people in December. File image: Dara Mac Donaill

Figures released on Wednesday show there was a 2 per cent drop in the numbers of homeless people in December. File image: Dara Mac Donaill

 

Dublin homeless officials insist there are more than enough beds for rough sleepers in the capital during the cold weather, rejecting claims that dozens could not get a bed on Tuesday night.

Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH), one of the main homeless charities in the city, said on Wednesday it could not find beds for 86 people for Tuesday night, when temperatures dropped below freezing.

The figure was repeated in the Dáil by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.

“Our team dealt with 86. The likelihood is there were more people who we didn’t get to. But 86 is what we recorded last night, 70 males and 16 females,” Brian McLoughlin of ICHH said.

“One of our team tried four times to get accommodation for one person and was told there was no availability.”

However officials from the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), which administers emergency accommodation in the capital, disputed the figure and said there were beds for everyone who wanted one.

“Anyone that looked for a bed last night, we were able to give them one,” said a DRHE spokeswoman.

She said according to the executive’s outreach workers there were about 30 rough sleepers in the city and another 20 in the wider Dublin region. These were people who did not want to avail of a bed.

“There was enough beds but these are people who don’t want to come in for their own reasons.”

She said sometimes emergency beds would reach capacity in the course of an evening but as the night progressed beds would come free where people failed to show up. If someone called while all the beds were booked they were told to call back later and there would be a bed available, the spokeswoman said.

But Mr McLoughlin described this as misinformation. “We know for a fact there were no beds available when our teams tried to get them last night.”

He said people were not told to call back later. “They were just told straight ‘no’.”

The Homeless Executive’s “Extreme Weather Protocol” has been in place since Monday when a yellow weather warning was announced. About 150 extra beds have been brought online and more outreach workers have been deployed, it said.

Members of the public can also alert the executive about a rough sleeper using an online form at homelessdublin.ie.

Heavy snowfall in parts of the midlands and the west led to the closure of a number of schools on Wednesday, and Met Éireann has forecast a further drop in temperatures on Thursday night.

The snow is likely to be heaviest over much of Munster and south Leinster on Thursday with some significant accumulations in places, Met Éireann said, predicting nighttime temperatures of between minus 2 and minus 5 degrees.

Road safety

AA Roadwatch warned road users that it took up to ten times longer to stop on an icy road. “In affected areas, slow down, keep further back from the vehicle in front and keep all manoeuvres gentle,” an AA roadwatch spokesman said.

Following the closure of a number of schools in Cos Longford, Sligo and Roscommon on Wednesday, the Department of Education said it was at the discretion of each school to decide on closures depending on the severity of the weather.

“The Department’s advice to schools is to remain vigilant in the event of adverse weather conditions. Schools should monitor weather forecasts in order to be prepared for any severe weather which may affect the school,” a spokesman said.

Meanwhile, figures released on Wednesday show there was a 2 per cent drop in the numbers of homeless people in December. The numbers presenting as homeless in Dublin also dropped for the fifth month in a row.

“This is showing us that increased outreach and prevention activity, such as HAP Placefinders, are starting to deliver results,” Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said.

Focus Ireland welcomed the decrease but said homeless numbers typically drop in December, when more people stay with family members, and tend to jump again in the new year.

It also said the long-term trends remain grim. The number of homeless people has increased by 14 per cent in the last year.