'As temperatures drop, there's a fear for life' - Volunteer group operates day and night ahead of icy weather

The Dublin Regional Homeless Executive has said that over 165 extra beds have been made available because of the weather warning.

DSC_1753 Gráinne Ní Aodha Gráinne Ní Aodha

HOMELESS CHARITY GROUP Inner City Helping Homeless has seen an increase in calls from members of the public reporting rough sleepers who they’re concerned about.

There’s been a spike in calls in the last 48 hours, the organisation’s CEO Anthony Flynn told at his group’s headquarters on Amien Street in Dublin’s North Inner City.

Their biggest concern, he explained, is for rough sleepers in areas on the outskirts of the city, where they’re less likely to be seen by concerned passers-by.

“People that are not in city centre districts where people passing are able to make phone calls to us and give the location of where people are.

Already there’s a number of calls about [rough sleepers] who would be by themselves and in a less visible area – in parks and at the back of churches.
As temperatures drop, there’s a fear for life.

Flynn said the voluntary group had extended its outreach services substantially.

Usually, teams go out between 10pm – 2am – but now they’re operating from morning to night (10am – 2pm).

Their teams are handing out sleeping bags, thermal clothing, and hot food and drinks for those who need them.

Last night 81 people stayed on Dublin’s streets according to the organisation, who do their own rough count of rough sleepers. It’s difficult to measure exactly now much of an increase that represents, since the service extended its outreach service hours.

DSC_1758 The inside of the van. Gráinne Ní Aodha Gráinne Ní Aodha

Emergency beds

The Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) has said that 165 extra beds have been made available this week to get rough sleepers off the streets during this week of “exceptionally cold” weather.

A polar vortex from Siberia, nicknamed ‘the beast from the east’, has brought a blast of cold air to Ireland this evening, causing hail and snow storms in eastern counties.

The weather is expected to worsen on Thursday, when Storm Emma is due to hit and combine with ‘The Beast’, bringing heavy snowfall and blizzard conditions.

As temperatures plummet to below zero degrees, DRHE told that over 100 extra beds have been provided, as well as the following measures:

  • Private emergency accommodation providers have been asked to remain open and accessible during the weather warnings
  • Homeless day services will extend their operating hours
  • Housing First teams will have two new teams for each day for the week.

“We are confident that there will be sufficient additional emergency spaces for anyone that seeks shelter,” it said, adding that it was “extremely grateful” for the ongoing work from charities and volunteers.

DSC_1743 Stacks of sleeping bags in the ICHH hallway. Gráinne Ní Aodha Gráinne Ní Aodha

Safety concerns

Anthony Flynn said that there could be some safety issues with increasing bed capacity in open plan areas which he said were already “bursting at the seams”.

Earlier today, they received a call from a member of the public concerned about five people in tents near the Dublin coastline. When ICHH approached them, they said that they wouldn’t go into emergency accommodation due to safety concerns.

“It’s shocking,” Flynn says, “But we have to ensure that we’re logging every call and we check on them every 4-5 hours, and keep offering emergency accommodation.

“We’ve a percentage of people who are entrenched homeless. Around 35% to 40% would have that problem of entrenchment, a lot of the issues would be around trust and around concerns with the accommodation available,” he said.

We’ve an awful lot of people who don’t have substance abuse issues who don’t want to be in an environment where substance abuse is happening.

“It’s a big deal when someone says they don’t want to go into a hostel because they don’t feel safe,” he added.

ICHH is a volunteer-run charity that was established in 2013 to provide services to people in homeless situations. It doesn’t receive government funding.

It’s one of a number of organisations that aids rough sleepers, including the Simon Community’s Rough Sleepers Team help those living on the streets in Kildare, Wicklow and Meath every night of the week.

The DRHE’s Housing First initiative, done in partnership with the Peter McVerry Trust, allows people to log the location of where a rough sleeper is seen, and a team will then check on them to offer them support.

Read: ‘It’s a moral shame’: Another 188 children have become homeless since the start of the year

Read: ‘Continuous snow’ to hit Ireland as Beast from the East clashes with Storm Emma

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