Charities voice fears for safety of homeless

After a young man died in a doorway during freezing conditions, a homeless charity said it was extremely worried about people sleeping rough during the current cold snap.

Gardaí who found Paul Doyle, 33, from Bray, Co Wicklow, at the entrance to the Tesco Express in the town on Saturday, believe he died from hypothermia.

Simon’s national spokeswoman, Niamh Randall, said the charity sympathised with Mr Doyle’s family.

“This is a very sad occurrence, particularly at this time of year. Hypothermia is a particular worry and we do have huge concerns as the weather gets colder.”

Simon communities work with between 4,500 to 5,000 individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless every year.

“We are seeing an increase in those seeking our support and there are increasing numbers rough sleeping at this point in time,” said Ms Randall.

“An official count was done a couple of weeks ago and while we don’t have the figures yet we expect that they will have increased. It is a sign of the recession but our concern is that people will have somewhere warm and safe to sleep at night.”

She said the number of people sleeping rough was not large — in Dublin it could be 100 and perhaps even less in other built-up centres throughout Ireland.

Simon communities work to save homeless people from perishing in the very cold weather with a range of supports.

It is also involved in cold weather initiatives when all the services, both statutory and voluntary, work closely together to try and ensure that people sleeping rough get the support they need.

“But we are working in a very difficult economic environment — our funding is under huge pressure and we are very worried facing into another cold snap that people are not left on the streets because there is nowhere for them to go,” said Ms Randall.

Focus Ireland also expressed condolences to the family and friends of Mr Doyle on his tragic death.

Advocacy manager Roughan MacNamara said some people ended up on the streets because of an unplanned discharge from a state institution. He said people simply could not be discharged from mental health services or prison unless they had a home, or, at the very lease, suitable emergency accommodation.

“This is more vital now during the cold weather but it needs to be in place all year round as there are many other dangers faced by people sleeping rough,” he said.

Mayor of Bray, Michael Glynn, urged anyone coming in contact with people sleeping rough to try and convince them to get help from the authorities.

Speaking on RTÉ radio yesterday, Mr Glynn, said there were services in Bray for homeless people that Mr Doyle was familiar with.

Sadly, he said, those sleeping rough sometimes failed to realise how vulnerable they were when it got cold.


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