The deaths took place in the days surrounding the tragic fatality of 43-year-old Jonathan Corrie just yards from the Dáil, and as campaigners warned recent efforts to tackle homelessness must acknowledge the role of drugs in the issue.
The latest incident occurred when a man died in a Cork City hospital after collapsing in a shop on North Main St on Tuesday. His condition had been critical in the intervening days.
The man’s death has been linked to drug use, as was the death last weekend of another person found in the toilets of a fast food outlet in the city centre on Saturday night.
It is believed both men had been using homeless services in recent times, with a Garda source admitting the close proximity of the deaths is “unusual”.
“It is particularly rare that you would have two people dying in that short space of time. We have a lot of drug addiction in the city at the moment,” said the Garda source.
The possible involvement of heroin in at least one of the two deaths again raises fears over the prevalence of the drug in the city, and the role drugs play in the homelessness epidemic.
Dr Chris Luke, who oversees the Mercy University Hospital in Cork City, said while the new initiatives in Dublin should be welcomed, there needs to be a focus on the impact of drug use — particularly heroin — in how people become homeless and the associated public health risks.
Citing an earlier study of the hospital which showed a homeless person attended its emergency department every 36 hours, he said in a significant number of cases, “homelessness results from mental health and substance misuse issues”.
Dr Luke said the new cocktail of drink and drugs — particularly head-shop drugs — had made many hostels violent places, and any long-term response to homelessness needs to focus on the role of drugs, with a clear need for adequate health services to be linked with any emergency accommodation.
The Cork deaths came in the same week as Kilkenny man Mr Corrie died in a doorway on Molesworth St in Dublin City centre — just yards from Leinster House.
The tragic situation has led to high-profile Government commitments to solve the rough-sleeper crisis in the capital by Christmas.
Environment Minister Alan Kelly has said this can be achieved by providing 260 new emergency accommodation beds in Dublin over the coming weeks, with the minister and Dublin City Lord Mayor Christy Burke meeting with various groups over the past 48 hours to flesh out the proposals.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny also spent three hours on Thursday night on a soup-run with homelessness groups, and has insisted any money needed to tackle the crisis will be made available.
The Irish Examiner has learned that in addition to the 260 emergency beds, State agency Nama has also offered a 100-bed hotel and four large city centre properties.
However, campaign groups such as the Peter McVerry Trust and Focus Ireland have said unless private rooms can be made available and a safe environment ensured, “homeless people will refuse them because they’re too dangerous”.