Death of homeless man on Dublin street ‘tragic’, says Minister
Remains of Michal Waskiewiczwere discovered near Christ Church Cathedral
The area in Cook Street, Dublin, where Michal Waskiewicz died while sleeping rough. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/ The Irish Times
The death of a homeless man on a Dublin street this week was “tragic” and efforts are underway to provide additional accommodation for people without homes this winter, Minister of State for Housing Damien English has said.
Outreach teams working on the city’s streets were also aware of him and had attempted to offer assistance.
It is understood he had been in and out of homeless and medical services in Dublin since about 2016, which is when he is thought to have arrived in Ireland.
His body was found by a passing member of the public who, when it was clear there was no response from him, contacted the emergency services. Gardaí are not treating his death as suspicious. A postmortem will be carried out on his remains and a file will be prepared for the coroner.
Flowers, candles, a wooden cross and messages for Mr Waskiewicz have been left at the sport where his body was found.
There too is a cardboard plaque with the message: “Enough of that. Tonight our colleague died of cold and physical exhaustion.”
Mr English extended his sympathies to the Polish community and said the deceased had engaged with the Simon Community and Merchants Quay over the years.
“But [he]didn’t want to avail of all the services or of a bed over the years,” he said. “A tragic situation there, very complex needs and I do offer sympathies to his family and the Polish community in general.”
Be Winter Ready
Mr English was one of four Ministers speaking at the launch of the Be Winter Ready public awareness initiative. Among the measures addressed at the event, were some aimed at avoiding deaths in the homeless community during freezing weather conditions.
He said an additional 200 beds would be made available in Dublin in the coming weeks, bringing the total to 700, of which 100 will be permanent.
“We do recognise that in extreme weather events many rough sleepers, who wouldn’t normally engage in our services, who wouldn’t normally avail of a bed or avail of our services, do come forward and look for that help during extreme weather,” Mr English said.
However, Fr Peter McVerry, who campaigns to help homeless people, later said that on an anecdotal basis it appears there are already more rough sleepers in Dublin now than at Christmas last year.
“There are a huge number of people coming into me saying that either they can’t get a bed for the night or they have given up [trying],” he said.
“There is a huge shortage of beds. The extra ones will make a difference but a lot of people will say they won’t go into these hostels because they don’t feel safe. It’s not the number of beds, it’s the quality of beds.”
Fr McVerry said he had never heard that specific difference being discussed at a high level and the “political angle” was to simply provide numbers.
“I don’t see any evidence of them learning,” he said.