Street alcoholics' treatment centre in Limerick opposed by businesses

 

Limerick businesses are opposing a treatment centre for homeless alcoholics planned for the city centre. It would be the first of its kind in the State.

The corporation is proposing to build the "wet house", providing direct emergency access and holistic treatment for street drinkers in Catherine Street. Cara, the housing association, would operate the centre.

The assistant city manager, Mr Conn Murray, said the centre in the two adjoining buildings would allow street drinkers to drink in a controlled environment, and would provide them with a rehabilitation service.

A centre with up to 20 accommodation units is planned, costing up to £95,000 per unit. Staff would include social workers, counsellors and a chiropodist.

But Mr Shane Gleeson, a shop-owner and chairman of a committee of local businesses, said the centre would attract more heavy drinkers to the area.

"Every resident and every business person in the area would be very much in favour of something being done fast, but the actual physical location would be one door away from a three-storey pub and nightclub," he said.

Four publicans, three hoteliers, a restaurateur and a solicitor are also on the committee, and he has the support of Limerick Chamber of Commerce.

He said there was a high concentration of elderly residents who had lived on the street all their lives and who lived in fear following a series of violent incidents in the area.

Ms Jan O'Sullivan, a Labour TD, is the chairwoman of Cara, which has its headquarters in Limerick. She said the centre would be run to the highest standard, based on the association's experience with homeless Irish people in Britain over 16 years.

Mr Gearoid O Meachair, chief executive of Cara, said the argument that it would attract more drinkers to an area was disingenuous. "It is not getting them off the street and containing it. It is working with people and having a professional relationship with them based on their holistic needs as human beings," he said.

The model was based on a therapy which was about accepting people as they were and accepting that a minority would continue in the lifestyle they had chosen. He said four people had died in doorways in Limerick over the past three years.

"All the major cities are now in the business of providing responses to rough sleepers as a result of recent Government initiatives," he said.