The death of a homeless man in Cork in the early hours of this morning is a warning to the Government that they need to do more to tackle the crisis, according to the city’s most prominent frontline homelessness worker.
Catriona Twomey of Cork Penny Dinners warned that more homeless people will die without further Government intervention.
Her comments come as gardai continue to appeal for witnesses to a brutal attack on a homeless man on Mardyke Walk in the early hours of this morning.
Emergency services responded to a call of a tent on fire, and the victim was found beaten and unconscious nearby. He was brought to Cork University Hospital where he later died.
It is understood the man is in his fifties and from the Macroom area.
The scene is in a park area by the River Lee and has become the site of a makeshift settlement for homeless people, who live in a cluster of tents.
Ms Twomey visited the scene this afternoon, and said incidents like this “will probably happen again if measures aren't taken by the government to solve the crisis”.
“This is a warning to our government to sort out the homeless crisis, and we need to sort it now. We need more housing, we need more treatment centers, and we need more support services,” Ms Twomey said.
“This was their home for now. If you go back to a place every night of the week to sleep, that's your home, isn't it? It is awfully sad that it happened here.
“They wouldn't be here if there was someplace for them to go, but for a lot of these people it's not just housing, they need treatment centres so that can be ready to go into and to sustain a house.
“I mean, how can you put a heroin addict into a house and expect him to pay his rent and pay his bills and cook for himself and look after himself and stuff like that? Seriously, anybody with any level of intelligence will know that that can't happen. So the government should know it.
“Homelessness can be caused by addiction or mental health problems, but sometimes addiction and mental health problems go hand in hand when a person has been made homeless. So it's not six of one and half a dozen of the other, it can happen both ways.
“But what I would say to the government is; this is a warning to the government to solve the homeless crisis, to solve it now, we need it done now. People are dying, people are being hurt, and it's not just housing that we need.
"We need the treatment centres, we need the support services, we need more gardai, more resources for gardai, for our ambulance crews, for our hospitals, to deal with the crisis that we have here. And again, it's so sad that this is happening, and will probably happen again if measures aren't taken by the government to solve the crisis,” she said.
Ms Twomey said Penny Dinners has been continually supported by the public who recognise the seriousness of the homelessness crisis in Cork.
“People are very good to us, they know what we do. They come in and work alongside us. We have company days, we have school days, we've college days, we have individuals that come in. They see what we do, and they go away, and they'll do something for us to keep us going. We've never had a fundraiser at Penny Dinners.
“The lovely part of it is that the goodwill is huge in our city and in our county and all over Ireland, but the government should be tapping into that goodwill, because that goodwill is there to solve all problems, to solve all crises that are happening in the city and the amount of people that come and support us is phenomenal.
“It keeps our doors open because it shows nobody agrees with the situations that are in the city, they don't agree with the homeless crisis and the addictions, the drinking culture in the city, underage drinking and all of that.
“We've a lot of things that we need to address in the city and they can't be addressed by one agency. For example, you can't expect the gardai to address everything, they're supposed to protect us as a community, but they need the resources as well, and they need all of us to come together with them to try and help to end all this,” she said.
Ms Twomey said she is concerned, however, that the political will to tackle the crisis does not match the public will to end it.
“That's evident in Penny Dinners the whole time because when people come, they always expressed that the reason they're coming is they want to help somebody who's down on their luck.
“People are kind in the words that they use, and to describe somebody as down on their luck is a good way of putting it, because maybe in everybody's life there's a time when somebody could be down on their luck. And for now we're dealing with those that are down on their luck.
“The public support is there, but the government support needs to be able to match that or even give more to get this sorted,” she said.