Charity "deeply saddened" following second homeless death in Dublin

It is the second person who has died while sleeping rough in the city this week

Charity "deeply saddened" following second homeless death in Dublin

Photo: Leon Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Updated 17:05

A leading homeless charity has said it is "deeply saddened" to hear of a second homeless death on the streets of Dublin.

The Peter McVerry Trust was reacting to the news that a man who had been sleeping rough near the Four Courts in the city centre passed away on Monday night.

The charity said the man was a Lithuanian national who had been engaging with homeless outreach teams for some time.

He was found unresponsive at around 8pm on Monday and was brought to the Mater Hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

The Irish Times reports that initial indications suggest he may have died from a drug overdose.

Second death

It is the second homeless death in the city this week.

A man in his late-fifties was found unresponsive in a tent in Ranelagh on Tuesday afternoon.

He was taken to St Vincent's Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Gardaí have confirmed a file is being prepared for the Coroner's Court.

Unprecedented

In a statement, the Peter McVerry Trust said there has been " been an unprecedented number of deaths involving people sleeping rough since late August."

"The latest two deaths in Dublin bring to 7 the number of people sleeping rough that have died in the past 12 weeks," it said.

"Peter McVerry Trust is calling on the Government to commit to housing every person currently sleeping rough in Dublin by the end of next year."

The charity said there are currently just over 180 people sleeping rough on the streets of Dublin and called on the Government to "commit to ring-fencing 180 social housing units for our most vulnerable citizens."

Deeply saddened

While it is extremely difficult to calculate exact figures regarding homeless deaths, Peter McVerry Trust CEO Pat Doyle said the charity lost 19 people who were accessing its services last year.

"Obviously we were deeply saddened to hear of the loss of another life on the street and we sympathise with the family and friends of the gentleman concerned," he said.

"The gentleman concerned was known to us and in homeless services since 2010 and had been in one of Peter McVerry Trust's shelters up until the night of the 21st of November - that was the last night that he was in a registered shelter.

"He then was sleeping rough and we weren't able to locate him.

"A voluntary group came across him on the streets of Ranelagh and gave him a sleeping bag on the night in question."

Public help

He called on the public to make homeless services aware of any rough sleeper they come across outside of the city centre.

"We have to keep trying and if we had gotten to that gentleman, there would have been some possibility [...] that we would have got him to come in," he said.

"But he was hidden, he was off the main thoroughfare and we didn't have a location for him.

"So we ask the public any time they come across a rough sleeper, particularly in a hideaway place, don't leave it to us - ring any of the services.

"Ring and report it and we will go and investigate."

Emergency beds

He said 24 new emergency beds are opening in Dublin today adding that a total of 202 will be coming online before Christmas.

He said the Peter McVerry Trust is also bringing in a further 20 this week - with 115 of the promised 200 permanent new beds set to be operated by the charity.

"We do have two types of rough sleeper," he said.

"One is economic, which is where just they don't have enough money to get into accommodation.

"The others are those with complex needs who, even when there is a limited number of bed spaces,  some of them are still reluctant to come in.

"A lot of that is got to do with a former history in institutional care and so on and so forth and people don't want to share accommodation."

He said the only answer to the homelessness crisis is "housing, housing , housing" adding that the Housing First initiative is the only way to keep vulnerable people safe and off the streets.

Money available

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, the Taoiseach insisted there is enough money being dedicated to house building to bring the homeless crisis to an end.  

Leo Varadkar was responding to a call for money from the Exchequer rainy day fund towards large-scale social housing developments:

"The issue that we are going to be running into is the capacity of the construction sector to actually build all these homes because the house building is now ramping up and we can see that from the numbers and we are starting to see it around us," he said.

"We can see it all over the country.

"The constraining factor is not going to be money from the Government; it is going to be the availability of sites; the availability of construction workers and others to build the houses that we desperately need."

Crises 

On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, the Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy offered his sympathies on the death of the man in Ranelagh:

"This is exactly why we did not want to have an election," he said.

"These are the real types of issues and crises that Government is there for and is there to deal with.

"What has happened for this individual is very tragic and of course I extend my sympathies to his family and friends.

"I can't go into the individual circumstances of this person's life for obvious reasons."

Emergency intervention

The Inner City Helping Homeless charity said the man had been sleeping rough in a tent for some time.

The charity has spent the last number of months warning that there would be further homeless deaths on the streets unless the Government brought forward emergency interventions to take people off the streets.

Following the announcement of the death yesterday, the charity's CEO, Anthony Flynn, said: "We have warned all week of the continuous rise in rough sleeper numbers with little or no emergency contingency implementation."

"We had a death over the last 24 hours," he said. "It is totally unacceptable; we need direct intervention."

"We need the Minister today to come out and put into place the 180 or 200 beds that are needed in regards to the cold winter initiative."

Winter Initiative

He said the Government's Cold Weather Initiative has "already failed."

"This is an unacceptable situation and a death that could have been avoided with proper access to beds.

"Our calls continue to fall on deaf ears as promises to deliver 200 beds by December 18th is too late.

"The winter has hit hard now and this beds are essential, we need emergency intervention and an immediate response from the minister and Dublin Regional Homeless Executive."

The Government has confirmed plans to bring 200 additional permanent emergency beds into use by December 18th.

However Mr Flynn warned that more people will die unless the beds are made available immediately.