At least 14 people slept rough in Dublin overnight despite big freeze

Charity worried about people in tents who are now surrounded by large amounts of snow

There was less than 15 rough sleepers on Dublin streets during the worst of Storm Emma according to the National Emergency Coordination Centre. Video: Merrion Street

 

At least 14 people slept rough in Dublin on Thursday night as the capital experienced its highest snowfalls in almost 40 years.

Following overnight snowfalls of about 23cm, and more expected on Friday outreach workers will visit these people through the day hoping again to persuade them to go into emergency accommodation.

There may also be need to ‘section’ people sleeping rough and continuing to refuse accommodation, to take them into care under the Mental Health Act 2001. Medical personnel with the charity Safetytnet will be among teams visiting people sleeping out. They will assess whether they have the capacity to make decisions in their own best interests.

Some 115 people were accommodated overnight in the extreme cold weather accommodation being provided at a sports centre in Dublin 8, with a further 104 contingency beds – camp-beds put up in corridors and offices in other homeless shelters this week – occupied across the city.

Many of those now in the over 200 extra beds put into the system since Monday were previously unknown to homeless services.

The Housing First Intake Team (HFIT), operated by Focus Ireland and the Peter McVerry Trust, engaged with people continuing to sleep rough through the night until 5.30 on Friday morning. They identified a total of 21 people, six of whom were persuaded to access the extreme cold weather shelter and one person who was accommodated in a garda station.

A spokesman for the Trust said the HFIT had put out an extra van through the night and staff had worked in dreadful conditions, but bringing as many people as possible into safety was a priority.

“The team will be out again today and going back to the locations where there are people we’re concerned about.”

Though the extreme weather accommodation is now at almost full capacity it is anticipated more people may seek accommodation.

People in tents

The spokesman said the Trust was particularly worried about people in tents who, now surrounded by large amounts of snow, “will find it impossible to stay dry”.

Responding to an assertion by another charity, that some people sleeping rough had been unable to access beds in the extreme weather accommodation as they could not get through to the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) freephone number, he said no-one was turned away.

“People who had not been known to services have been presenting, we have been picking people up and bringing them in. No-one is being turned away.”

On Thursday a number of people refusing offers of emergency accommodation were ‘sectioned’ and taken into care under sections 4, 8 and 13 of the 2001 Mental Health Act. These allow for a person to be involuntarily admitted, in an emergency situation, to an approved centre to be assessed by a consultant psychiatrist “in the best interests of the person”. The gardaí have been assisting Safetynet, a medical charity in bringing some of these into hospital care.

Section 12 of the Act provides for a garda to act where they have “reasonable grounds for believing that a person is suffering from a mental disorder and...there is a serious likelihood of the person causing immediate and serious harm to himself or herself”.

The gardaí have no right to arrest a homeless person, in contrast to a number of other EU states including Belgium where police have been told to arrest homeless people refusing accommodation in the current weather, to protect them from sub-zero temperatures.

In Cork, the Simon Community provided beds for 74 people on Thursday night, while 78 people used the day centre on Thursday.