By David Raleigh
A homeless campsite has appeared on the outskirts of Limerick city as the city council revealed there are 57 children homeless, while more than 4,000 people on the local authority's housing waiting list.
As our photographs show, a number of tents have been set up in a derelict warehouse which has no light or heat, and is located a stones throw from the city centre.
A tricolour hangs over one of the tents, a poignant reminder of how some continue to be marginalised in Irish society.
When we visited the camp today it was a chilly six degrees, however temperatures have dropped over recent nights to -4 degrees. Two people have died sleeping rough in Limerick in the past two months.
Two weeks ago homeless men Joe Lynch and Donal O'Keefe described how they sleep on cold concrete floors in a derelict building in Limerick city.
However, in a statement Limerick city and county council said "no rough sleepers were found" following garda checks at derelict private properties.
"Reports of sites anecdotally identified as places where people are sleeping rough are checked out. The council will carry this out on property owned by the local authority," the council added.
As of November 25, there were 197 individuals currently resident in emergency homeless accommodation in Limerick, including 57 children.
"A further 16 adults are on a waiting list for emergency accommodation not receiving B&B support, but accommodated by family etc, while eight adults are currently accessing the Winter Initiative Beds available," the council said.
"The latest rough sleepers count took place on 21 October 2016 which found one adult sleeping rough. He declined emergency accommodation," a spokesperson stated.
They added: "Negotiations are ongoing in relation to the provision of 15 beds which should become available in the coming weeks. Discussions are also taking place in relation to a late night café."
The council said it has employed two resettlement case managers who are working with voluntary staff at hostels to support and source solutions for homeless individuals or families.
Fianna Fáil TD, Willie O'Dea, described the situation as "completely and utterly out of control".
"I know this from my observations in walking around the streets that the hostels are full. They are now giving sleeping bags to people to sleep outside in this weather, which, again, is quite remarkable and it is evident to anybody walking the streets of Limerick."
New figures reveal the council plans to construct 137 social housing units this year, representing the highest figure of any local authority in the country.
A 25-year old Limerick man who sustained a brain injury in a car crash when he was 15 has been sleeping in the homeless persons campsite for the last five months.
Speaking to the Today with Sean O'Rourke radio programme this morning, he said he begs for money on the streets everyday just to earn enough money to buy a €2 fire log so he can get a little warmth at night.
"It's very sad to say it, but never did I ever think I'd ever end up in such a rut...I'm literally scabbing (begging) to live."
The young rough sleeper said he was previously addicted to heroin, cocaine, cannabis and tablets, but has been drug free for the past nine months.
"It gets very chilly here and you can hear the rats at night. It's not a very safe place to be."
Fianna Fáil councillor and former Detective Garda Sean Lynch described the camp as "shocking".
"Heroin is a huge problem in this city. We have approximately a thousand heroin addicts in the city and they have to have the finances to feed their habit daily. That's frightening," he added.