Plans to remove tents from a Cork city centre quay where up to a dozen people sleep nightly are at an advanced state, it emerged last night.
Concerns about the presence of tents on an exposed wharf along St Patrick’s Quay have been discussed several times by senior city council management in recent weeks, and a number of options have been considered. Gardaí have also received several complaints about anti-social behaviour in the area.
It is understood that City Hall agreed on a specific approach some weeks ago and that the strategy is at an advanced stage. A spokesperson declined to comment on what this will entail but said simply tearing down the tents is not an option.
The council and Cork Simon both said their homeless outreach workers have engaged, and will continue to engage, with the people living in the tents despite their offers of emergency shelter being turned down. Both said tearing down the tents and leaving people, many with complex needs, without shelter, would create more problems in the long-term.
Cork Simon said it had helped a man and woman who had been living in a tent on the quay secure housing three weeks ago. Work is ongoing to engage with the others, a spokesperson said.
In July, Fine Gael councillor and former lord mayor, Des Cahill, said the makeshift encampment presents a “poor image of the city”.
He called for the tents to be classed as litter and torn down.
“This isn’t a housing issue and they need to be taken down immediately,” said Mr Cahill at the time.
He repeated his calls yesterday following a rise in complaints about anti-social behaviour. He said the city should also view this as a serious health and safety matter for the people in the tents, given the exposed nature of the wharf.
One man, who has spent several months living in a large white marquee-style structure on the quayside, has declined several offers to speak publicly about his circumstances. He says his name is ‘No Name’ and he has described his quarters as ‘Freedom Wharf’. Several more smaller tents have sprung up alongside his structure in recent weeks.
The council said there is bed capacity in the city’s homeless hostels.
“Therefore tent dwellers are visited by the Simon outreach team and the council’s outreach worker very regularly and are invited to avail of the options available,” said the council.
The Cork Simon spokesman said their outreach workers received a similar response from the tent dwellers. He said the charity adopted a policy some time ago of not distributing tents to those in need — instead offering a place in the Simon shelter, or in one of the city’s two other shelters run by other agencies.
He said that, on regular visits to the tent dwellers, their outreach team remind the people regularly of the various shelter options.
“Some do avail of our day service, but they have chosen not to avail of the shelter,” he said. “We will continue to offer beds in the emergency shelter and hopefully work with them to where they can start to avail of those services.”
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.