Limerick’s rough sleepers are hidden in plain sight

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by Alan Jacques

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fe13cdbb4f9d9176e44ff80de58d-668x501DESPITE claims from the Council’s homeless service that few signs of rough sleeping were evident during a recent search, the Limerick Post can reveal that a number of people have slept out on the city’s streets this Christmas.

Coordinator of homeless services at Limerick City and County Council, Rob Lowth, told members of the Metropolitan District at their December meeting that no evidence of rough sleeping was found during a recent survey. He also claimed that while rough sleeping still occurs in Limerick, it occurs in significantly smaller numbers than in other cities.

Mr Lowth also pointed out that there was adequate capacity in the city to meet the emergency accommodation needs of those willing to accept help.

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However, one man who has been sleeping out rough on the city’s streets this December insists that the local authority is “talking nonsense”. The homeless man, who has issues with alcohol, believes that not enough is being done to help those sleeping rough. He also claimed that he has been sleeping rough in city locations such as a laneway off Mount Kennett and in doorways off William Street, this Christmas.

“There are lots of people in the same situation as me. I’ve seen other men sleeping rough out on the streets every night I’ve been out here,” the 42-year-old homeless man commented.

“I don’t want to be out here, or to be a burden on anyone, but I have nowhere else to go. My parents live in Limerick, but they are old and I don’t want to worry them. I’m a grown man and they don’t need that upset,” he said.

Born and raised in Limerick, the man admitted that he had been offered a place at a homeless shelter in the city centre, but had refused to stay there.

“I don’t want to be in with heroin addicts. I am an addict myself. I drink, but I wouldn’t feel safe being thrown in with junkies. I have my own issues, but I won’t stay there. I would prefer private rented accommodation,” he said.

Just days before Christmas, the Limerick Post met another rough sleeper begging on O’Connell Street for food and shelter. Originally from Kerry, but now based in Limerick, the 44-year-old said he had tried a number of shelters in the city only to be told there’s no room.

“I have been sleeping out rough a long time. No one will help. I usually sleep out up around the train station,” he reluctantly revealed.

During a quick sweep of the city, the Limerick Post found other evidence of rough sleeping in the city, after discovering an old duvet left in a laneway off Denmark Street.

Tom Flynn, manager of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul’s drop-in centre on Hartstonge Street, also revealed that people are “reporting as homeless” to their service on an ongoing basis.

“In the recent cold weather, we haven’t seen too many rough sleepers. In our experience, they are accommodated in hostels at this time of year. Sometimes families feel guilty at Christmas too and take them back in, but that’s only a temporary solution”.

“People come to us for the most basic of needs like food and a shower and clean clothes. There’s lots of people out there that aren’t sleeping rough but don’t have accommodation of their own and are sleeping on friends couches too,” he explained.