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Dublin: 2 °C Wednesday 13 November, 2019
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Fr Peter McVerry says council told him homeless man would have to 'come and get a sleeping bag'

DRHE director Eileen Gleeson said earlier this week that there was no shortage of beds and no need for anyone to sleep rough.

File photo
File photo
Image: Leon Farrell via RollingNews.ie

FR PETER MCVERRY has hit out at the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), claiming it advised him that a man sleeping rough should “come down and get a sleeping bag” instead of being offered a bed last night.

DRHE director Eileen Gleeson said yesterday, as the cold weather kicked in, that there was no shortage of beds and no need for anyone to sleep rough on Tuesday night.

However, speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke earlier today McVerry said “there wasn’t a bed for someone last night” when he rang the DRHE.

He claimed a man in his 30s who had never been homeless before contacted him. 

“I rang looking for a bed and I was told by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive that because they didn’t know him, he would have to go to a garda station for his identity to be verified,” McVerry said. 

McVerry said he explained that the man had no ID and that, therefore, the gardaí would be unable to verify his identity. He said that he was told by the DRHE that the man would “have to come down and get a sleeping bag”. 

“I said ‘Are you serious? In this weather?’,” McVerry said, adding that he was told “that’s the protocol”. 

I was absolutely furious.  

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, a DRHE spokesperson explained that when a person – who previously has never accessed homeless services – contacts the freephone service out-of-hours they are asked to go to a garda station to verify their identity. 

“This is standard procedure in such cases and is required to ensure that a) the person is over 18, b) that there are no outstanding warrants or security concerns and most importantly to ensure the safety of all service users in homeless accommodation,” the spokesperson said. 

They said this is what happened yesterday evening:

Had the person presented to a garda station as requested and his ID verified, he would then have been given an appropriate placement, as there were beds available at the time. 

The spokesperson said its extreme weather protocol has been in place since Monday in response to the status yellow warning and that additional contingency beds are in place for people sleeping rough in the Dublin region. 

McVerry said he wanted to provide the man with accommodation but he wasn’t able to get in contact with him again. 

“He went away, he gave me a phone number but when I rang the phone number I couldn’t get through to him. We were prepared to put him up on a mattress on the floor,” he said. 

McVerry added that he has no idea what happened to the man. 

The DRHE added that its “protocol is in place for valid reasons – it is not a matter of bureaucracy or officialdom but mitigates risks and protects all service users and staff in homeless facilities”. 

“Furthermore, the staff operating the freephone provide this service 24/7, 365 days a year from 2pm to 2am. They respond to the more vulnerable members of our society and strive to provide appropriate response at all times,” the spokesperson said. 

This can be a challenging environment for the staff and any unwarranted criticism of them and their work is both inappropriate and unbecoming from the founder of a homeless charity. 

Dispute

Today’s comments come after the number of people forced to sleep rough on the streets of the capital and the supports in place for them was disputed yesterday

Yesterday, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald told the Dáil that there were 86 people sleeping rough on Dublin’s streets the night previous, and Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) said its team were told there were no beds available at 11.30pm for a number of people on Tuesday night. 

However, this was contested by DRHE director Eileen Gleeson, who told RTÉ’s News at One that there was no shortage of beds on Tuesday and no need for anyone to sleep rough. She also said a number of people refuse to engage with their services, meaning they don’t accept a bed for the night. 

In a statement yesterday evening, ICHH CEO Anthony Flynn said that it “clearly isn’t true” that there are enough beds available for anyone who homeless during the current cold spell.

“Our teams last night made four attempts to secure accommodation for people they met on their nightly routes around Dublin only to be told that there wasn’t any beds available,” he said.

Yesterday, a spokesperson for the DRHE told TheJournal.ie that its strategy to deal with adverse weather events has been put into action already with the coming cold snap.

The spokesperson said: “As mentioned by our Director on RTÉ earlier part of our Cold Weather Strategy that is already in place is to provide a targeted response to people rough sleeping, particularly those that are reluctant to engage with services or those that are long-term sleeping rough.”

In relation to the 86 number, our Outreach teams that are on the street 24/7, 365 days a year working with people sleeping rough, they have reported from last night that there were up to 30 people sleeping rough in Dublin City and up to 30 sleeping rough in the Dublin Region.

The spokesperson added that they are fully aware of the impact that this type of weather can have on people sleeping rough, and its teams are working with people on a daily basis.

In addition to the 250+ beds added to its capacity last year, DRHE added a number of contingency beds had been allocated for use during this cold spell.

The DRHE also urges people who see rough sleepers to notify them at www.homelessdublin.ie so that outreach teams can locate them quickly.

With reporting by Sean Murray

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