A tented village offers a ‘safe haven’ for those who want to avoid Cork City’s homeless shelters, writes Eoin English.
A ‘tented village’ which is home to almost 20 homeless people has sprung up close to Cork city centre.
The camp, which has 17 tents pitched on open green space and nearby scrubland, features a communal barbecue with cooking utensils, a toilet area screened by sleeping bags, and an area for drying clothes.
One of its first and longest residents, Anthony, said it offers a safe haven for those who are afraid to use, orwho want to avoid the city’s homeless shelters, for whatever reason.
“We look after each other and look out for each other. It is our sanctuary,” he said.
Another resident, Darren, 33, who’s been sleeping rough since his release from prison seven weeks ago following a sentence for drugs’ offences, said he beat his heroin addiction in jail but fears a relapse given how readily available certain drugs are in and around some homeless shelters.
“I want to stay off drugs but if I go in to one of those places I know 100% that I’ll go back on everything,” he said.
“We go to Simon alright for food but you just have to come away from it straight away. Living in a tent is the only thing you can do.
“You hear them say there is a bed for everyone. But it’s a mattress thrown down on the floor. They’re like sardines in a can in some of the places. I’d sooner take my chances out here than in there.”
His partner, Jennifer, 35, has been sleeping rough since mid-June, soon after the death of her step-father. She said she has seen fights and been robbed in one of the shelters and is afraid to go back there.
“I sleep better here. I feel safer here,” she said.
“I can’t keep my nose clean. I can’t set my life up without stability.
“I can’t nail down a course or a job or secure proper access with my son because I don’t have anywhere stable.”
She said she’s been on a local authority housing list since 2006 and was never offered a property, and that she can’t rely on family.
“I’m welcome to call for a cup of coffee and a chat but where are they going to put me?” she said.
“It’s not an option at all. It has caused the difficulties with my family I can’t have proper relationships with my family when I’m like this.
“People are taking photographs of us as they’re passing. We are being judged straight away.
“We are human beings. We deserve to have a roof over our heads. We shouldn’t, in this day and age, be living in a field. “We’re heading into October and November. It’ll be Christmas before we know it.
“We are relying on Cork Penny Dinners and the homeless runs to keep us surviving, to keep us alive.
“Only for the charities, we would have nothing.
“More people are going to die. More people are going to go back using, to turn back to drugs, because their heads won’t be able to cope with this,” she said.
Ali Hamou, a volunteer with the charity, One Human Community, whose volunteers deliver food and supplies to the encampment regularly, said that he has seen the city’s homeless problem worsen in recent months.
“We used to see one or two tents here and there. But never anything like this,” he said.
“These are people. You wouldn’t do this to a dog. If people see a dog hurt, they will run to help but here we have human beings being neglected,” he said.
He urged the Government to release vacant stateproperties to charities like theirs which could then ask volunteers to renovate them.