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Dublin: 3 °C Tuesday 18 February, 2020
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'Freezing cold, very scared and homeless': Volunteer describes discovering homeless woman on Dublin street

Irene Coady Murphy said last night was particularly cold and they had run out of sleeping bags to give to rough sleepers.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

A HOMELESS CHARITY volunteer, who helped a woman who was discovered homeless on O’Connell Street in Dublin city, has called for a long-term solution to address the number of vulnerable people living in homelessness.

Irene Coady Murphy, of Reaching Out Homeless Outreach, had finished up a soup run last night, and she and other volunteers were dishing out the remaining sandwiches to rough sleepers, when they came across the woman. 

She initially told them she was 81 years old, but services now believe she is in her 60s*. 

She discovered that the woman had been released from hospital that day and had been living in homelessness before she was originally admitted, so with nowhere to go was lying on the side of a busy city centre footpath.  

“We were out last night as we are every Thursday on North Earl Street on a soup run and, at the end of the night if we have sandwiches left over, we send some of the team around to give them out to the rough sleepers for during the night,” she said speaking on The Niall Boylan show

“Two of the team [members] were back within seconds to say there was a lady outside Londis across from the GPO, released from hospital this morning, still had pyjamas bottoms on and was around there, freezing cold, very scared and homeless. 

“We come across the situation, and we just deal with that situation on the night, with what we think we should do. We couldn’t leave the lady there.”

Coady Murphy explained that it was a particularly cold night last night and that they had run out of sleeping bags due to the demands from members of the homeless community. 

“It was freezing cold, we ran out of sleeping bags last night. We gave out 30 sleeping bags.

“I had a work jacket on me last night and I was freezing cold so I can just imagine that this little old lady was. I went around and I spoke to her. She had been homeless before her hospital admission. She was put into a hostel which is unsuitable.

“I mean, the roughest of the rough sleepers don’t go into hostels for a reason because they’re scared in there. And to expect to put an old lady of her age in, when there’s no addiction present, and there definitely wasn’t last night.”

With the help of Dublin city councillor, Christy Burke, a member of Dublin City Council’s staff was contacted and the lady was placed into a hotel for the night. 

But Coady Murphy suggested longer term solutions needed to be introduced as the “homeless situation has gotten out of control, there’s a complete system failure… they just can’t cope with the numbers”. 

The hotel had originally informed them that the woman would have to be out at 10am this morning but the council has arranged for her to remain there until staff can work out a more permanent solution.

Charity Alone has urged the Government to step up efforts to support older people who fall into housing difficulties after news of the woman’s discovery broke this morning. 

“We often talk about the problems of delayed discharge from hospital settings where an older person stays in hospital for longer than necessary because the appropriate stepdown supports aren’t available to them, but an older person being discharged onto the streets is simply unacceptable,” said ALONE CEO Seán Moynihan.

“Housing challenges are incredibly difficult at any age, but particularly so for older people and those who are already vulnerable. This year we have worked with increasing numbers of older people who have found themselves with nowhere to go.

“Many of the older people we work with who have experienced homelessness are apprehensive to use hostels and other emergency accommodation options, and are staying in inappropriate accommodation and living conditions,” he added. 

The Department of Housing recently released homeless figures for November, which stated there were 6,696 homeless adults and 3,752 homeless children – 10,448 people in total without a home.

This is slightly down from October’s figures which showed slightly over 10,500 were in emergency accommodation.

*An earlier version of this report stated the woman was 81 years old as that was the age she gave outreach services. This was later clarified and amended in this article. 

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