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'People shouldn’t be dying on the streets': Call for action after another homeless person dies

“It has been a heartbreaking week for anyone involved in the fight against homelessness,” the ICHH said.

File photo of a rough sleeper in Dublin
File photo of a rough sleeper in Dublin
Image: Leon Farrell via RollingNews.ie

Updated 4.40pm

A 30-YEAR-OLD homeless woman has died after being found in a residential area of Cork city.

The woman was found in a tent at Gilabbey Park at around 2am yesterday. She was taken to Cork University Hospital where she was later pronounced dead.

Gardaí at Bridewell are investigating the sudden death, but foul play is not suspected. A file will be prepared for the coroner, gardaí said.

Catriona Twomey of Cork’s Penny Dinners, a service for the homeless, said the organisation knew the local woman. Twomey, who has worked in homeless services for over 10 years, said the number of homeless people is the highest it’s ever been.

“With the Simon Community and St Vincent de Paul, there was always a bed there for someone, but there isn’t now.

There are so many people on the streets now and with the cold [weather] … It’s got to be sorted once and for all.

The woman is the third homeless person to die this week.

Dublin’s Inner City Helping Homeless group (ICHH) said: “It has been a heartbreaking week for anyone involved in the fight against homelessness.”

Its CEO Anthony Flynn urged the government to meet with emergency services next week before the situation gets worse.

“We are heading towards winter now, so how many more people will need to die before the government comes to the table with genuine intent to fix this crisis?,” Flynn said.

Three deaths this week

On Tuesday, homeless man Stephen ‘Jack’ Watson – who had been sleeping rough – was found unconscious outside a Superdry shop close to Grafton Street in Dublin city. He was later pronounced dead.

On Wednesday, a 26-year-old homeless mother was found dead in the hotel she was staying at in Co Kildare, in what is believed to be a personal tragedy.

Those deaths have placed more pressure on the government to do something substantive to tackle the housing crisis. A housing summit is being convened by the government next week.

Speaking to RTÉ News today, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said: “These three separate deaths, in very different circumstances and for very different reasons, are tragedies for the families involved. I want to again extend my sympathies to them.

“It’s also been a very difficult few days for the emergency homeless services and I want to thank them for all their efforts.

Some people have difficulties in their lives that require our assistance and our support, beyond simple shelter or housing needs. Sometimes, no matter what we do, it won’t be enough. But people shouldn’t be dying on the streets. People deserve more dignity than that.

“As I have said before, we have a crisis when it comes to homelessness. We’ve been doing intensive work and next week I will be holding an emergency summit with local authority chief executives to explore new options and to see how we can better join up our response across local authorities but also across health and social care supports.

“Neither resources nor money nor ideology are an impediment here. A huge amount is being done but clearly more is needed. Of course the basic supply problem continues and I am currently finalising my review of Rebuilding Ireland (the government’s housing policy) which will be announced shortly and which will have a positive impact here,” Murphy said.

‘A broken housing system’

Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on housing, Barry Cowen, said the government needs to fix the “dysfunction in the country’s housing sector”.

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“The death of three people who were homeless is a symbol of the terrifying, distressing implications of an unacceptable and ever escalating crisis that has become the most major challenge of our time,” he said.

“Whether there are other factors at play in these deaths or not, these are Irish citizens that deserved better – at the very least a basic standard of living.”

Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin said the deaths were the ”direct result of a broken housing system that does not meet the needs of some of society’s most vulnerable people”.

The housing and homeless crisis needs action, not words. More importantly, there is a need for a radical change of policy direction.

“Government is not doing enough to stem the flow of people into homelessness, nor are they doing enough to source the permanent homes that people in emergency accommodation so desperately need.”

‘Don’t wait until someone else dies’

Twomey wants to see all the different groups invested in frontline services come together to find a solution.

She said addiction service groups, mental health advocates, and homeless and tenancy groups must come together to find a way through the housing crisis – with the help of the government.

“I’d encourage the government not to be afraid of working with volunteers – we want to work with the government,” Twomey said.

“There are families that can’t get housing because the landlord’s raised the rent. I have people telling me they have six weeks to find a house because the landlord told them the house is being sold. There’s a lot of things happening that need to be regulated.

People are dying, people are losing their homes, losing their families – and they need help. Don’t wait until someone else dies.

With reporting by Órla Ryan

Read: Tributes paid to ‘gentle, lovely’ man who died on Suffolk Street

Read: ‘Doing everything we can’: Minister to lead emergency housing summit after death of two homeless people

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