herald

Thursday 17 October 2019

'He is some mother's son' - crowds anger at vigil as minister says money is not the answer to homeless crisis

Grainne Kelly and John Byrne light a candle. A candle lit vigil took place outside the Dail this evening to highlight the homelessness and housing crisis after a homeless man - who was in his forties - was discovered in a doorway on Molesworth Street in Dublin at around 8 o'clock yesterday morning
Grainne Kelly and John Byrne light a candle. A candle lit vigil took place outside the Dail this evening to highlight the homelessness and housing crisis after a homeless man - who was in his forties - was discovered in a doorway on Molesworth Street in Dublin at around 8 o'clock yesterday morning
A candle lit vigil took place outside the Dail this evening to highlight the homelessness and housing crisis after a homeless man - who was in his forties - was discovered in a doorway on Molesworth Street in Dublin at around 8 o'clock yesterday morning
Grainne Kelly and John Byrne light a candle. A candle lit vigil took place outside the Dail this evening to highlight the homelessness and housing crisis after a homeless man - who was in his forties - was discovered in a doorway on Molesworth Street in Dublin at around 8 o'clock yesterday morning. Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne
A three year old girl holds a candle at a vigil which took place outside the Dail this evening to highlight the homelessness and housing crisis after a homeless man - who was in his forties - was discovered in a doorway on Molesworth Street in Dublin at around 8 o'clock yesterday morning. Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne

EXTRA funding will not solve the problem of people sleeping rough, Environment Minister Alan Kelly has insisted.

However, Dubliners who attended a candlelit vigil outside the Dail last night to mark the tragic death of homeless man Jonathan Corrie (43), demanded immediate action to address the crisis.

"He is some mother's son. He shouldn't have died on the cold ground," said Anne Ellis (44) from Finglas. "There should be crisis intervention," she said.

Barry O'Sullivan (34), from Islandbridge, said that there is a lot of talking about putting money into social housing, but nothing seems to be happening.

"The homeless crisis is gone way out of control," he said.

Pressure has been growing on the Government to provide more emergency shelter for people sleeping on the streets after the death of Mr Corrie just yards from the gates of Leinster House.

The environment minister has called a "homelessness summit" of government officials, local council leaders and homeless aid organisations as part of a series of meetings planned for tomorrow afternoon.

Mr Kelly said the real answer was to get everyone working to combat homelessness to cooperate on a coordinated strategy.

He said people such as Jonathan Corrie had "complex problems" and providing housing alone was not enough. "We still have to find ways of addressing their problems," he said.

Help

He said he particularly wanted to meet with all the voluntary groups, so-called Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), working with homeless people, in efforts to coordinate their work. "There may be ways the NGOs can be helped and there may be ways in which the Government can help the NGOs," Mr Kelly said.

In the Dail, Taoiseach Enda Kenny was accused of giving priority to "electioneering" when he should have been leading efforts to help homeless people. The accusation came as the Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett cancelled the formal switching-on of the Christmas tree lights as a mark of respect for Jonathan Corrie.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said it took the tragic death of Mr Corrie to direct government attention to the plight of homeless people. Mr Martin said it was time to raise the rent supplement to help people being priced out of their homes.

The Fianna Fail leader cited the case of a couple living in a car for three weeks because they had been quoted €1,050 per month for a flat where they could only get €540 per month in rent allowance. The Taoiseach said the Government had set aside €55m in taxpayers' money to help homeless people.

More than 100 people attended the vigil outside the Dail last night, paying their respects to the deceased homeless man.

Flowers were also left at the Molesworth Street doorway, where the dead man was discovered by a passer-by.

One bouquet paid tribute to Jonathan "who died bravely in the cold of a Dublin doorway".

"I feel ashamed that in a country full of spare houses and rooms we did not put a roof over your head," was written on another bouquet.

Dublin's Lord Mayor Christy Burke attended the vigil and said that the misery of homelessness has to end. He said he is going to call a summit at the Mansion House on Friday afternoon, with key players with ideas and views, and an action plan will be drawn up. He said he wants the plan to begin the next day, not next year.

In addition, he wants government policy in relation to the issue to be brought forward.

He said that among those who will be at the summit on Friday will be a number of charities involved in helping the homeless. "It's time for action. End the misery, and end it now," he said.

Anthony Flynn, director of the Inner City Helping Homeless group, said that it was hoped to get key personnel from the across the board at the meeting to tackle the problem.

Strategy

"Hopefully, people will put their heads together and get some ideas across on how we can sort the problem."

Tony Sweeney, also from the Dublin Inner City Helping Homeless group, knew the deceased man. "He was a quiet guy. We would have met him on a regular basis. Mr Sweeney added that people are sleeping out in the open, with not even a sleeping bag or blanket.

Tragically, it emerged yesterday that Mr Corrie was offered a bed in a homeless shelter just last week but declined the place.

Alice Leahy from the TRUST charity said he called on them up to twice a week for five years. "He was always very polite," she said.

hnews@herald.ie

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