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Dublin: 8 °C Sunday 20 October, 2019
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In a south Dublin park, three men and a dog bed down for the night

Frustrated with the city’s homeless services, the three walk the tracks each night to make camp in the suburbs.

CAMPED WITH HIS brother, their friend (and their dog) in parkland not far from some of south Dublin’s most expensive homes, Anthony Brophy tells a familiar story.

In and out of care as teenager, he has been homeless for long stretches of his adult life. It’s now three years since the 32-year-old last had a permanent place to call home.

He’s trying to save up a deposit to get back into private rental accommodation. But it’s hard.

“It’s very hard to save when you’re in this situation.

“It’s so cold and you have to get off the streets. There’s no home to go and sit in and keep warm. You’ve to pay to go to the like of McDonalds or Subway or somewhere to just sit in to stay dry.”

20151022_132042 Anthony Brophy Source: TheJournal.ie

Frustrated with the lack of emergency beds and the state of certain hostels in the city – “some places you wouldn’t put your dog in them” – for the last three weeks Anthony, his brother Wallace and their friend Michael have taken to walking the tracks last thing at night to camp on a green area at the back of a housing estate in Dublin 14.

They’re striking camp as we talk: the three tents wrapped and folded away, belongings packed into rucksacks and black plastic bags.

Later, they’ll head back to the city to get some food before making the trek to the suburbs once again.

“We were in Merrion Square,” Anthony explains.

“We were camping in Merrion Square. The guards came in and tried to muscle us out, so we decided to leave. Not through any problems we were causing or anything like that, just because they said it was a private park.”

Three years homeless

Almost 2,500 adults without children are now homeless across the State, along with 1,571 children, and 980 parents.

In Anthony’s experience, getting back into employment and finding full-time housing can be a near-impossible task, once you’re long-term homeless.

Problems at his rental properly led to him losing his home, last time around.

“I was living in private rental for five years and the landlord I was renting off wasn’t the real landlord he was sub-letting. When the person that owned the building came back they got the banks and the bailiffs in. They kicked me out and I became homeless.

“I’m three years homeless this time around. I was ten years homeless before.”

Taking care of yourself without regular access to plumbing isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but as Anthony points out:

“I don’t dress homeless, I wash myself every day. I’ve clean clothes every day.”

journ

Homeless crisis

Despite the government saying last December that there should be no need for anyone in Dublin to sleep rough unless they make that choice themselves, Anthony says it’s often the case that there are no beds left when you call the emergency helpline.

“There’s a lot more homeless people around now than there ever have been.

“You can ring up the freephone but you’re never guaranteed a bed and the best they can do for you is give you a sleeping bag when there’s no beds left.”

Says Anthony:

“Thanks to the soup runs and all that there is a place we can go and get something to eat. Not everybody starves or goes cold. They do help us a lot with clothes.”

He’s putting his name down for the Housing First scheme – which is jointly run by the Council and charities like the Peter McVerry Trust – but doesn’t hold out much hope of getting a place.

As for their temporary camp-site:

“We’ve no time limit on this. If we have to, we’re going to be here over Christmas if it’s necessary.”

Locals have been “sound” he adds, and there’s been no problems.

“They’d be out picking berries. There’s two people come in with their dog and our dog, Frankie, plays with them.”

On the subject of alcohol and drugs, he says “Years ago I used to like my drink … I used to get into trouble”.

None of them take drugs at all, he says. ”The odd time you’d have an odd bottle in the lane, just standing down the laneway. You’d have a bottle and that’s it, like.”

Lack of emergency beds

Francis Doherty of the Peter McVerry Trust agreed there had been problems securing enough emergency accommodation for rough sleepers in recent months.

“The 271 beds that came on stream have filled up fairly rapidly.”

He said he expected efforts would be made to increase the number of beds available heading into the winter months.

Homelessness reports launch An area often used by homeless people just off Dublin's Kildare street. Source: PA WIRE

Single people currently face “huge challenges” when it comes to securing social housing, according to Doherty. Private rental accommodation, while it may be a preferred option, “has almost completely been shut off due to the increase in rents and the failure to increase rent supplement”.

While a limited number of schemes, including home-sharing options, are being made available for adults “there’s no question politically, families are the priority”.

Enough beds?

When asked about emergency accommodation, the Council-run Dublin Region Homeless Executive told us its annual cold weather action plan would begin on Monday week.

“This annual proactive measure is undertaken each year as winter approaches with the emphasis being to have a variety of additional options for people who generally do not/or cannot avail of existing services.”

Asked, via email, to confirm whether there were currently enough emergency beds for anyone who requests one, the DRHE sent a list of figures that showed an increase of 215 in the number of beds available since the start of the year.

Referring again to the winter plan, a spokesperson added:

“We will be bringing in a significant number of  additional beds to meet the consistent increase in presentation of families and adult individuals to homeless services.”

Read: Can 500 prefabs like this solve Dublin’s homeless crisis?

Read: Homeless man found dead off Dublin’s Dawson Street named 

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