A CROATIAN man who has been travelling around Europe for the past three years is sleeping out on the banks of the Shannon because he believes that none of Limerick’s homeless shelters can accommodate his pet dog.
Vedran Kohut and his canine companion, Evelyn, have slept in 29 cities across Europe since setting out on their journey in 2013. An intelligent, intense and very likeable character, Vedran set off on his adventure to raise awareness about homelessness.
The 36-year-old Croat and his three-year-old mongrel have rested their heads in France, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Slovenia, Italy and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Taking off his shoes to show the strands of grass he uses as an insole, he said: “I always like to have grass under my feet”.
“I would like to change the nationality on my passport to gypsy as that’s what I am. Travelling and meeting new people and seeing new places is important to me. I set out on my travels to find myself and I came here to start a new life,” he said.
His only gripe with Limerick since arriving two weeks ago is that homeless people with pets are not welcomed in shelters.
“I have stayed in homeless shelters across Europe and there has never been an issue before with me having a pet. People generally accept that a dog is a good companion for people who live rough,” he explained.
“Evelyn, my dog, has travelled everywhere with me. She is everything to me. I keep learning from her and our adventures so far have been amazing and inspiring. Evelyn is a carrier of a very light and free energy, her unconditional love is something I keep learning from.”
Although Vedran believes that having a dog has been an issue for him finding shelter in Limerick, he admitted that staff at Limerick City and Council’s Homeless Action Team have been nothing short of “super helpful”. He does however insist that local government should look at accommodating homeless people with pets.
He is currently seeking work in Limerick and dreams of eventually starting his own business and buying a car and home. Whether he will stay here or be bitten by the travel bug once again is anyone’s guess, but his current living arrangements along the bank of the River Shannon on the Condell Road, raise serious concerns.
Living in bushes on the edge of the river, his wet clothes hung from tree branches, while food and books, soiled with mud, lay scattered across the ground. That night he was planning on staying in a squat in the city with a friend as it was too cold to sleep outdoors.
“Don’t worry about me, everything I need is all around me. If you ever need a blanket or some food come down here and take what you need, this is for everyone,” he said.
A spokesperson for Limerick City and County Council explained that while providing a full and diverse range of homeless services, they have when required requested service providers to accommodate the pets of service users on a temporary basis.
“In terms of accommodation, the Council assess persons as being homeless when they have what’s termed, ‘a proven centre of interest’ in the county. They will often refer service users back to previous homeless accommodation in other local authority areas where they had been in secure accommodation.”