‘Severe weather’ beds provided for 200 homeless people in Dublin

Ensuring people have somewhere to go after the bad weather will be a ‘challenge’

 Leonard O’Shea from Crumlin at the emergency facility in Dublin 8. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Leonard O’Shea from Crumlin at the emergency facility in Dublin 8. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

 

Dublin homeless services will address the “challenge” of ensuring the 200 people who have taken “severe weather” beds have somewhere to go after the severe weather ends.

Eileen Gleeson, director of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), was speaking yesterday as 10 “severe weather” beds were added to the 90 provided on Tuesday at a sports hall in Dublin 8.

These are in addition to 104 “contingency beds” – camp-beds put up in corridors, in offices and added to other bedrooms – that were available to the system but not used until this week, and the up to 200 beds added before Christmas.

“When you think about it, there are about 200 extra beds just this week and they are full,” Ms Gleeson said. “Clearly some have come, not from sleeping on the street, but from unsatisfactory situations – squats or sleeping in cars. The challenge will be, where do they go after this severe weather? Will they have satisfactory accommodation?”

The most recent “rough-sleeper count” conducted in November, found a record high of 184 people sleeping on Dublin’s streets. This was before the 200 new emergency beds were provided.

Medical professionals were among those working through Wednesday, talking to people sleeping rough, in an effort to persuade them into emergency beds during the exceptionally cold weather.

Dr Austin O’Carroll, founder of medical charity Safetynet, visited some of those who would not take hostel places on Tuesday night, along with members of the Housing First Intake Team, which is run by the Peter McVerry Trust and Focus Ireland.

“We engaged with people across the city the teams were worried about. We persuaded four people to go into beds. They had very real fears, based on experience, of the hostels. I was able to say to some that medically I believed they needed to get indoors for the next few nights. One man, who would I think have taken a bed if we had been able to offer him a single room, said he just wouldn’t be able to hack a hostel.”

Sleeping bag and towel

The Trust, in conjunction with the DRHE, will increase its 100 “severe weather” beds at the sports hall to 110 on Thursday night as the weather deteriorates.

The camp-beds are laid out under marquees – their lower ceilings making it warmer than the hall – in a manner reminiscent of a field hospital. Only men are accommodated here. Each is given a sleeping bag and a towel. The main lights go out at midnight and breakfast is served from 7am.

Lunch, dinner and snacks are served. The facility will be open 24 hours a day until Monday at least. Newspapers are donated daily, games have been donated and Harvey Norman, which is partnering with the Peter McVerry Trust this year, has provided televisions and heaters.

Of the 90 beds available on Tuesday, 81 were occupied – one of them by Leonard O’Shea (47) from Crumlin, who has been homeless “on and off for 10 years”.

“I got caught up in drugs, one thing led to another. I’ve been staying with my brother and got kicked out. I’ve been sleeping in cars – that kind of thing.”

He was brought to the facility on Tuesday after calling the homeless freephone number. “It’s good here. It’s a pity it’s only open a week. The bed, it’s alright. It’s better than being out in that weather.”

24-hour access

Homeless services have increased emergency bed capacity across the State during the severe weather, while services that usually close in the mornings are staying open through the day.

In Cork, Simon has increased its bed capacity from 15 to 20 and is “identifying additional bed spaces in our high-support housing. Its day centre will be kept open 24 hours a day until Friday at least.

In the midwest, Simon is working with Limerick city and county council to provide extra beds and to run a soup kitchen from 9am to 5pm for the rest of the week. All foodbank users are being advised to collect food early.

In Dundalk, between the Dundalk Hostel and the Simon day centre there will be 24-hour access to shelter this week at least.

Anyone concerned about someone sleeping rough in Dublin is asked to report their location to the DRHE at homelessdublin.ie/report-rough-sleeper.