herald

Saturday 19 October 2019

From meeting Pope to nights spent freezing cold on street

Pope Francis shakes hands with Rosemary Fearson
Pope Francis shakes hands with Rosemary Fearson

A homeless woman sleeping in freezing conditions on the street months after a meeting with Pope Francis has called on the Catholic Church to open its doors to rough sleepers.

Rosemary Hughes (35) - who has a serious visual impairment that leaves her with only 10pc vision - was searching for cardboard to sleep on with her guide dog at a shopfront on Grafton Street on Sunday night.

Ms Hughes has claimed there has been no suitable accommodation available for her due to her disability since a hostel she had been staying in long-term was closed down more than two years ago.

She had been staying at the John's Lane West Hostel in Dublin 2 for a number of months until it closed in July 2016

The Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) said it has offered accommodation to Ms Hughes on a number of occasions but this has not been taken up.

The DRHE added that its outreach teams have also attempted to engage with her.

Humble

Despite being complimentary about the Pope when she met him on his visit to Ireland in August, Ms Hughes said more needed to be done by the Catholic Church in relation to the homelessness crisis.

Ms Hughes spoke briefly to Pope Francis when he stopped off to visit Brother Kevin Crowley at the Capuchin Day Centre.

"The Pope was very humble and he said no one should be left outside on their own as we're all members of society," Ms Hughes said, adding: "He was a lovely man."

"I think they [the Catholic Church] should be opening the churches to homeless people at night.

Rosemary Hughes sleeping rough on Grafton Street, just months after meeting Pope Francis
Rosemary Hughes sleeping rough on Grafton Street, just months after meeting Pope Francis

"I think there should be some help providing shelter. They certainly have the wealth, they certainly have the power, they certainly have the facilities."

Asked about this possibility, a Dublin Diocese spokesperson defended its actions on homelessness and pointed to Crosscare - the social care agency of the Archdiocese of Dublin.

They said it "provides support to over 2,000 people experiencing homelessness in the greater Dublin region".

"Crosscare has six services for adults experiencing homelessness, including a family hub in the former Mater Dei college," the spokesperson added.

"Anyone who needs help should be encouraged to make contact as advised as soon as possible so they can get the proper support they need."

During his visit to the Capuchin Day Centre, the Pope paid tribute to the work that was being undertaken by Br Kevin and the Capuchin fathers.

Homeless woman, Rosemary Hughes and her guide dog, Quilla
Homeless woman, Rosemary Hughes and her guide dog, Quilla

He had specifically asked for a meeting with families in crisis to be included in the programme for the first papal visit to Ireland in almost 40 years.

He said families "facing grave challenges and real hardship are being shown love and support by the Capuchin fathers."

Pope Francis called for greater support for the sick, disadvantaged, lonely, depressed and the dying.

"No family can grow if it forgets its roots," he said.

Meanwhile, Independent TD Tommy Broughan has claimed that up to 8,000 children are living in a form of homelessness in Ireland.

The figures include the official statistics by the Department of Housing that state 3,811 children are in emergency accommodation, and add in children in direct provision, which totalled 1,613 last year.

Services

They also include the number of dependant children in adult services refuges.

"Based off the figures from Tusla, I think we can assume that there are probably at least around 2,000 children in domestic violence refuges and, with almost 4,000 in official homeless figures and another 1,600 in direct provision centres, our homeless children numbers are probably at least 8,000," Mr Broughan said.

"These figures, of course, do not include the countless others who are living in cramped, overcrowded and unsuitable accommodation, where their families are staying with friends and family members."

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