Desperate faces of Ireland’s homeless as they struggle to survive freezing winter in run-up to Christmas
Paddy, in his 70s, homeless for more than three years, sleeps in an open tent -so he can hear anybody approaching
These are the desperate faces of Ireland’s homeless battling to survive the freezing cold in the run-up to Christmas.
Hundreds of tragic men and women shiver in damp sleeping bags, flimsy tents and even the open air as temperatures plunge to -3C on Friday.
As most of us prepare to enjoy turkey and ham, this sad scene will be repeated nightly in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and other major towns.
In the greater Dublin area alone, volunteers say there are up to 200 rough sleepers braving the elements.
As Ireland battens down the hatches this weekend ahead of an Atlantic storm with 110km winds and snow in some areas, charity workers fear there will be deaths.
The Irish Mirror joined the Feed Our Homeless (FOH) nightly outreach service in Dublin as CEO Tony Walsh and two volunteers helped 122 homeless people.
Stacey Joyce, 32, and her friend 34-year-old friend Mary Lynch, who is battling pneumonia, told how they had been ‘crying all day’. They share a tiny tent with their partners.
Dubliner Stacey, homeless since 2016 and suffering from a chest infection, said: “If I was even given a 24-hour bed in a hostel on my own I’d go into it just to be out of the cold and off the street.
“It’s getting too dangerous. There won’t be a Christmas for us.
“I ended up homeless when my relationship ended and then I had a breakdown and I lost my house.”
Stacey, forced to sleep in a tent in a backstreet near St Patrick’s Cathedral, added: “Myself and Mary saw a doctor two days ago and he said she has a touch of pneumonia and she’s on steroids and antibiotics.”
Mary, homeless three years since her mum and dad died, added: “It’s freezing and we’re due a big storm and terrible weather now as well.”
During the night Tony and FOH volunteers Paul Berigan and Griffith O’Keefe criss-crossed the city, helping over dozens of homeless on streets, in parks, along canals and in emergency rooms.
The rough sleepers are just the tip of the iceberg in a crisis that has 10,514 people, including 3,826 kids, without a permanent roof over their heads. But they are the ones most at risk.
In the bitter cold between 11pm and 4am on Tuesday night we encountered :
* A woman in her 20s living alone in the Phoenix Park who was found three weeks ago “crawling on her hands and knees” on grass.
* A 69-year-old man covered in cardboard sleeping on a thin wall ledge outside a HSE building.
* James Grant, 36, living in a tent in the Phoenix Park after his life spiralled out of control when his mum and brother died suddenly.
* Paddy, in his 70s, homeless for more than three years and sleeping in an open tent -so he can hear anybody approaching – in Fairview.
* A dozen homeless people sleeping at the Mater Hospital and St James’s Hospital – many registering with phantom illnesses in order to stay.
* Larry Maughan, 37, sleeping on a bench overlooking the Grand Canal for four months.
FOH provided them with hot drinks, sleeping bags, clothes, food and toiletries and said they would give them a second tent by the morning.
Tony and the two volunteers made over 30 different stops in their two vans within five hours.
A Co Mayo woman, in her 20s, who the team have engaged with for three weeks was found “crawling on her hands and knees” in the Phoenix Park.
Tony, who said the woman had severe mental health difficulties but no addiction issues, added: “We came across her – the poor woman was like a scared cat.
“I couldn’t believe it. I went down to the volunteers and I came back and she was hiding, she wouldn’t come out to us.
“She had the clothes on her back, but that was it.
“And she had no tent, no sleeping bag, nothing, and she was sleeping on the grass. It was bitter cold.
“The eyes were hanging out of her head, I mean she was very frightened.”
Tony insisted next week they will “get a doctor out to her, get her assessed and get her into hospital.”
He said many homeless are afraid to go into the hostels because of rampant drug use and violence.
Dubliner Tony, who insists one-night only beds should be abolished, added: “I’m calling on Dublin City Council and the relevant authorities to urgently take action and make the hostels safer.
“Homeless people need somewhere secure they can sleep out of the cold where they’re engaging with support services.
“There’s a fear now we’ll probably have another death or deaths on the streets before Christmas.”
Meanwhile, James Grant, in a tent off in the Phoenix Park, added: “I’m here about four or five months.
“At the moment it’s so dangerous in the hostels where there’s loads of people that I call zombies walking around.”
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The 36-year-old, who said he has no addiction issues, continued: “It was just hard and I’ve just got out of hospital.
“Life is hard enough and I’m glad when Tony comes out to me.”
All of the rough sleepers praised the FOH volunteers, saying they wouldn’t survive without them.
Meanwhile, Joe, 39, who recently lapsed back into drugs, said: “I did a 12-month recovery programme and I worked as a hostel staff member.
“But I started doing crack and tablets, which never was me because it was there.
“The last three days I’m back sleeping out because I won’t stay in there.
“I think there is a need for clean hostels.
“I didn’t go to court today and there’s a warrant out for me. I’m thinking I’m better off in prison because I’ll get a detox, a bed and I’d have a better chance of coming off the stuff.”
One article in the Mail last week caught my attention; it was written by Brenda Power. She went on to say there is no reason to hang coats or leave coats for the homeless on the Halfpenny Bridge. Well Brenda I beg to differ, and a straight question for you – were you ever homeless? Hungry? Treated like a sub-human in your own country? Were you ever in a tent in a doorway or outside the Hilton Hotel on the canal, when middle class thugs pass by and try and burn the tent and the homeless person inside it? Nothing personal Brenda but your article shocked me or may I say part of it. There is an old saying – when you walk in my shoes, then you have a little right to criticise. Now – getting back to the National Scandal of Ireland’s shame on how it treats its most vulnerable people will continue if good men don’t stand up and say enough is enough. The people of Ireland as a collective have the power to solve this crisis and shame the Wasters in the Dail in getting off their fat arses and tackling this problem head on. First, Murphy should go but FF have to carry the baggage that they endorsed Murphy in remaining and to go one step further, they gave him a vote of confidence so in the New Year, Martin and his Cronies, cannot do a Pontious Pilot and wash their hands on this Scandal. In the meantime looking at the figures coming down the line this Crisis sadly is going to get worse. Varadkar is playing games in the Dail but reading the Perks he gave Kenny to the value of £300,000, a State car, PA services, free travel and the rest, just shows you how corrupt the Blueshirts are and yet FF still sit on the ditch which makes them even worse after the disaster of the Crash, which they have learned nothing from. Fred