Homeless men vow to continue Bray council protest

Two homeless men camp outside council offices in effort to register for housing

Tommy Donnelly and Jay Bissett outside Wicklow County Council’s offices in Bray, where they want to register for housing. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Tommy Donnelly and Jay Bissett outside Wicklow County Council’s offices in Bray, where they want to register for housing. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Two homeless men say they will camp outside Wicklow County Council offices in Bray until officials allow them register for housing.

Jay Bissett (36) and Tommy Donnelly (46) have been sleeping in tents at the steps of the council offices for over a week.

“They won’t let us register as homeless,” says Mr Bissett. “So we will stay here so they know we are homeless.”

They are calling on people to join them in sleeping outside the offices tonight, as the local authority housing officer will be there tomorrow morning.

“If people could come and support us here on Tuesday morning, that would be great. We just want to talk to the housing officer.”

Mr Bissett, from Sallynoggin in Dublin, has been living in Bray for eight years. He lost his apartment when the landlord decided to sell it.

Mr Donnelly, from Bray, became homeless after a relationship breakdown. Though he had an apartment in Monaghan for a while, he had to return to Bray for “personal reasons”.

The two men were residents of a men’s hostel in the town until it closed at the end of March.

“We got three weeks’ notice to find somewhere else, “says Mr Bissett. They had both been to viewings for one-bedroom flats.

The maximum rent a single person on rent supplement is allowed to pay in Bray is €520 per month. “One-bed places are about €850.”

He had been sleeping on friends’ couches for a few weeks after the hostel closed, while Mr O’Donnell got a place in another facility but was told to leave after his girlfriend visited one day.

On contacting the local authority at the start of the month they say they were told there was no accommodation.

They were offered sleeping bags and a suggestion as to where they might sleep. They refused these and refused to leave the Bray offices, where they stayed for four nights, until Monday, May 9th.

A third party stepped in and they were accommodated in a hotel for four nights. They say they were asked to present at the council offices in Wicklow town on Friday, May 13th but when they arrived they were refused entrance.

When they returned to the Bray offices they were refused entry there also. They camped for the weekend at a beach, before returning to the Bray offices to again try to register as homeless, on May 17th. They have been refused entry since.

“We have to stay here,” says Mr Bissett. “We have nowhere else to go.”

With a one-man tent each, and others to store food and clothes, they say it “gets really, really cold at night”. They get a hot meal at a homeless charity, Five Loaves, and local businesses send over tea and sandwiches.

“It feels bad being treated like this, as if we don’t even exist,” says Mr Donnelly.

“We’re not looking for keys to house. All we want is to register and some advice, some help.”

Wicklow County Council did not respond to requests for a comment.