Winter homeless risks to be raised in Dáil after two deaths

The increased risk posed by winter weather to homeless people is to be raised in the Dáil this week.

Two deaths of homeless people have been recorded in Tralee, Co Kerry, in recent weeks. Both had addictions.

However, a warning has been given that flaws in the housing system could lead to further deaths.

The latest death was a Polish man, Slawomir Marerewicz, whose body was found in an unoccupied house last week.

Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae plans to raise the issue in the Oireachtas.

He claimed some such people were falling between the cracks because they did not qualify for some social welfare payments which makes them ineligible for emergency accommodation.

He called for more powers to be given to housing officials dealing with the homeless, regardless of whether they are in receipt of any social welfare payment.

A Kerry County Council spokesman said: “We try to ensure that everyone who needs assistance is aware of what’s available and they can get in touch with us.

“However, in some circumstances, individuals who are offered assistance choose not to take it. We try our best in our information unit to deal with those who come to us and every case is different.”

The spokesman also said the council was working with the gardaí, HSE, government departments and agencies involved with the homeless.

The body of 59-year-old Mr Marerewicz, who had an alcohol addiction, was found in a house at St Stephen’s Terrace, Ballymullen.

Although he lived in Tralee for three to four years and had a number of addresses in the town, not much was known about him locally and gardaí are trying to trace his next-of-kin in Poland.

Interpol is also assisting with efforts to contact his family so that he can be formally identified and repatriated for burial.

On Oct 27, the body of Sarah O’Keeffe, aged 22, was found in a car park in the centre of Tralee.

A native of Ballingarry, Co Limerick, she had been staying in Arlington Lodge, Tralee, a centre for homeless people with addictions and had slept the previous night in the hostel.

This year, Kerry County Council is spending €658,000 on facilities and accommodation for the homeless in Tralee.

A facility has also been purchased in Killarney from the Cluid voluntary housing organisation.

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