Authorities are considering establishing an emergency cold weather camp for the homeless on army land in Cork.
Various agencies, including Cork Simon, Cork City Council, and the Department of Defence, have been engaged in talks in recent weeks to explore the possibility of establishing the temporary facility over the coming weeks.
They have closely examined the suitability of old tennis courts on the Camp Field at Collins Barracks, on the city’s northside, as a possible location. However, both the Department of Defence and Cork Simon chief executive Dermot Kavanagh stressed that no decisions have yet been made.
A spokesperson for the Department of Defence said: “While discussions are ongoing regarding a proposal for the placing of portable buildings as temporary emergency accommodation in the Camp Field, no decision has yet been taken on the proposal.”
Mr Kavanagh said that while the talks are ongoing, there is a need to prepare a contingency plan for when temperatures plummet.
“The ultimate solution to homelessness is providing people with long-term housing,” he said.
“When you focus on housing first, you free up beds in shelters. But our emergency shelters are at full capacity. So you have to have a contingency plan when temperatures drop below zero and when lives are at risk.”
The Irish Examiner understands that the talks included substantial detail on the Camp Field proposal. It is understood that the agencies have explored the possibility of locating at least two specially adapted portable cabins, with portaloos nearby, on the Camp Field tennis courts. It is understood that in the event of severe cold weather, and when the city’s various homeless shelters have reached capacity, people in need of emergency overnight accommodation would be transported to the Camp Field, and housed in the portable cabins for up to two or three nights. Arrangements would also be made for their transport off site the following morning.
It is expected that if the project is sanctioned, the camp would only be in place until April.
The Simon Communities in Ireland released figures last month which showed that the homeless and housing crisis is worsening.
The figures show further increases for adults, families, and children, with more than 5,101 people — 3,463 adults, 774 families with 1,638 children — stuck in emergency accommodation. This reflected a 93% increase in family homelessness and a 16% increase in homelessness among adults since January 2015.
Figures from Cork Simon indicate that rough sleeping in Cork City increased seven-fold between 2011 and 2014.
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