VIDEO:‘This homeless situation is gone beyond crisis’

Members of House the Homeless Gerard Banks, singer-songwriter Sandra Mc Shane, and founder member Michael O'Mahony who will be taking part in a 24-hour hunger strikeand sleep-out. Picture:Des Barry

Campaigners for homeless people have called on the Government to declare a national emergency and tackle the crisis.

And fears are mounting about the lack of government funding for a winter homeless strategy in Cork City where Simon’s emergency shelter is operating at 110% most nights.

Up to 10 members of the House the Homeless movement staged a 24-hour fast and spent last night sleeping outside Cork’s City Hall to draw attention to the growing homelessness crisis ahead of a weekend of action.

Figures from Cork Simon show, last week, 37 people spent at least one night sleeping rough in the city.

Campaigner Diarmaid Ó Cadhla said: “It seems in government that there is no sense of emergency, there is no sense of urgency in solving an acute problem which has actually seen people die on the streets, which has seen families with young kids become homeless.

“We are here to highlight this scandal and to demand that housing is a right. The problem is deepening and we hope that mounting public pressure will force the Government into action.”

Fellow activist Micheál O’Mahony said they hoped to experience first hand what it’s like to be homeless. “This homelessness situation is gone beyond crisis at the moment,” he said. “There are over 700 families homeless. That’s an absolute disgrace.”

Gerard Banks, who mounted a “hydrate the homeless” initiative in Cork in the summer, distributing free water to people living on the streets, said he hopes his participation in the hunger strike would give him a deeper understanding of what it’s like to be homeless.

“I want to know what it’s like to be sleeping on the streets, hungry, what it’s like to wake up at 4am and not know where to go to the toilet, where people go, what happens,” he said.

The group will hold a public rally on St Patrick’s St at 2pm on Saturday to mark World Homeless Day, followed by a sleep-out and candlelight vigil outside City Hall, from 8pm on Saturday. Sleep-outs are also planned in Dublin, Limerick, Mayo Waterford, Tipperary, Cavan and Galway. The protests are supported by Cork Simon, Cork Penny Dinners, the students’ unions of UCC and CIT, and others working to prevent homelessness.

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