CHARITIES should avoid giving tents to rough sleepers as they pose a safety risk to occupants, a former Lord Mayor has said.
Fine Gael councillor Des Cahill claims homeless people should be encouraged to engage with services rather than pitching up on patches of land in small communities in the city which he believes is encouraging alcohol and drug abuse.
His comments come after the death of homeless man Tim Hourihane, who had been living in a tent, over the weekend in an incident that is being treated as a murder by Gardaí.
Mr Hourihane was found dead at a tented community on the Mardyke in the early hours of Sunday morning. He had injuries consistent with assault and Gardaí have launched an investigation.
Mr Hourihane had presented himself to homeless services in the city a number of times over the last few years. He had also been granted permanent social housing tenancy by Cork City Council but had not taken it up.
Mr Cahill last year called for tents erected on the city’s quays to be torn down.
He described Mr Hourihane’s death as tragic and brutal and has warned that tents should not be seen as a mitigation measure for homelessness as they are not safe.
“Tents have no place in our city - in any part of the city,” said Mr Cahill.
“I strongly believe that charities who are giving out tents, through goodwill, [are] not helpful in any way, shape or form. Many of the tents across the city are being used for drinking by day.
“It’s very sad when people are forced into the situation... and they feel like the services aren’t there for them. We’ve all seen the figures that there are services there and some people choose not to [use them].
“We, as a council, spend €5.5 million per annum [on homeless accommodation] so as a local authority we are working flat out and if more money is needed, more is found.
“There are better, safer environments for people to take. In my view [tents] are not the right approach but this is what some people are encouraging.
“Many of the tents are vacant by night and being used for drinking during the day. Let’s not get away from the fact that this was a brutal murder and violence on the street and it’s unforgivable and it shouldn’t happen. Equally, open drinking and drug-taking in the city should not happen.
“I would not encourage any organisation to be giving out tents. It is not the right thing to do and for charities to be encouraging that is wrong,” Mr Cahill added.
City Hall director of housing Brian Geaney said a narrative that has developed in the wake of Mr Hourihane’s death that there are homeless people that are sleeping in tents as the last resort is “worrying”.
He confirmed there are 15 rough sleepers currently known to the council and all have been offered accommodation of some sort.
“It’s slightly worrying that there is talk that there is some people that have no choice but to live in tents. We should be clearly encouraging people to engage with the services that are there and with the outreach teams that visit people that are in this position."
He added offers of accommodation are regularly made to rough sleepers known to the council but these people do not always present themselves to services and if they do, they can be turned away by hotel management if they are intoxicated.