Penney Cork Dinners, a group that provides homeless services in the city, said the attacks have been taking place for the last few years but increased during lockdown.
Volunteer coordinator Caitriona Twomey said staff can no longer face the ‘despair in people’s eyes’, and called for more to be done to help society’s most vulnerable.
‘Seeing the women, seeing their faces, the pain in their eyes, we were sick to our stomachs and we wanted to do something about it,’ she told the Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk.
‘It is a very raw, hard thing, looking at the women. They just stand there. They just accept it because they have no other way of dealing with it. There is no place for them to go.
‘These women were being raped – and some of the men as well – and they had no place to go, no-one to turn to; they just curl up in a ball on the street where it happened.’
Ms Twomey added that the issue worsened during lockdown, saying that, in some cases, victims had been raped multiple times in a single night.
She also recalled situations in which she has had to physically remove a man from a woman.
‘They actually have no place to go at all. This is the thing I want to get across.
‘And during lockdown, things were more difficult because there was nobody there. A scream wouldn’t help them because nobody would hear them.’
Ms Twomey explained that many women on the streets enter into relationships with older men in order to protect themselves against being raped by numerous others.
‘A lot of women will pick a partner maybe to have someone to be with and not have a load of them at her,’ she said.
‘We see young girls with older men and it is just for protection, to keep them safe on the streets. It is better to be with one of them than to be at the hands of few.
‘It is not just a tough world out there for them. It is downright emotionally and physically hard for them and that is for men and women, boys and girls. They are on our streets and they are hurting big time and we have to protect them.’
Ms Twomey told the Mail that while the incidents witnessed by those at the charity were reported to gardai and dealt with by gardai, the victims were afraid to press charges.
Meanwhile, Mary Crilly from the Sexual Violence Centre in Cork said a minority of men see homeless women as ‘fair game’, adding that most victims won’t press charges due to the court process.
‘That is the huge sadness about it,’ she said. ‘That something so horrific is happening to a human being in our society and they turn around and say, “What is the point? I won’t get justice; I won’t be believed; I am not worth it.”‘ It was revealed this week that ten homeless people died in Dublin in the month of July.
In the first seven months of this year, some 31 homeless people in Dublin have died — 21 men and ten women.
The figure has been described as ‘shocking’ compared to the 34 people who died in all of 2019 and 35 people in 2018.
The Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) said that four of the 31 deaths were by suicide and three were as a result of a known medical condition.
Covid-19 is said to have been a ‘factor’ in the deaths.
The causes of 24 of the deaths remain unknown.