The death of Jolanta Koterba, a 49-year-old Polish woman, who was found dead on Monday evening in her home at Cork Simon, has caused shock and sorrow in Cork’s homeless community.
Gardaí said they were treating Ms Koterba’s death as “a personal tragedy”.
In a statement, Cork Simon said: “Our thoughts are very much with Jolanta’s family, her friends, and the staff who worked with her, and we’ll be doing all we can to support them. This is a terrible tragedy.”
Ms Koterba, who had lived in Ireland for over 15 years, had been well-known to homeless charities in Cork.
She had recently been released from Limerick Prison.
Caitriona Twomey, co-ordinator of Cork Penny Dinners, said the mood in the charity was sombre.
“We are deeply saddened by the death of Jolanta. The loneliness of her death has really impacted us. We’re in shock.
“Jolanta had such a big, beautiful smile, and everyone was very fond of her, because we all understood the pain of being on the street. She had beautiful, big eyes, and some days when she was upset, you could see the hurt and pain in her life.”
Jedrzej, a Polish member of Cork’s homeless community, said he was very upset to hear of Jolanta’s death.
“I liked her, she lived in hostels near me. In general, she was a very nice person. She never insulted me, always she respected me. She was too young to die.”
Penny Dinners volunteer Ray Horgan said the news had been heart-breaking. “We’re all upset at Jolanta’s passing, and unfortunately, this kind of incident is happening all too regularly.
“Jolanta was a larger than life character, and it’s strange and tragic to think that we won’t see her again.”
Barry Hurley, who was previously homeless, said he had known Jolanta for over 10 years. “She was my missus’ best friend. Her partner, Michael, is my best friend. He’s in an awful state, the poor man.”
Ms Twomey remembered a troubled soul, capable of great kindness. “She was just heartbroken to be on the street. Years ago, she worked in several businesses when she came to Cork first, but life can change in the blink of an eye.
“If any good at all might come from such a tragedy, it should be that it highlights the desperate need for urgent care for people struggling with poverty, addiction, homelessness, and mental health.”
Olive Morris, a retired social care worker, remembered Jolanta fondly. “She was someone who suffered hard times, but she was a good person who deserved better. She always appreciated any kindness shown her, and she had such a great smile.
“It’s yet another tragedy, and you’d have to ask when are we going to do more for vulnerable people.”
Jolanta Koterba is survived by her children, and by her partner Michael. She was two weeks shy of her 50th birthday.