Homelessness crisis: Councillor states its time to call in the army

Homelessness crisis: Councillor states its time to call in the army
Rough Sleepers in Penneys doorway, Patrick Street. Photo: Billy macGill

CALL in the army or use the old Cork Prison to help the homeless - that’s the message from members of Cork City Council who are urging action amid the escalating crisis.

Elected members are due to host an emergency meeting next week to discuss the homeless crisis in the city, with many raising concerns just days after a homeless woman died on Lower Oliver Plunkett Street.

In an emotive debate, Fianna Fáil's Tim Brosnan called for action to be taken to prevent more people from dying in the streets.

"The army is needed now," he said.

"We can send battleships to the Mediterranean with dietitians and doctors to do important work but in our own city, we have people who need that help too.

"We have an army barracks that is half empty and a well-trained army who can provide medical help and supervision."

Mr Brosnan called on the City Council to request emergency legislation to be enacted to allow the army to go into the city centre at night and bring people to temporary shelters in Collins' Barracks during the bad weather.

"It wouldn't solve the problem of homelessness but it would make sure that nobody is on the streets in the wet and the cold," he said.

Independent councillor Mick Finn acknowledged that a number of extra beds are available as a result of the cold weather initiative, funded by central government and facilitated locally by councils and charities.

However, he questioned the quality of what is available.

"In some cases, these are just existing recreational spaces with mattresses added."

Mr Finn said that there are options which should be explored during times of bad weather.

"The Togher boxing club acted with distinction during Hurricane Ophelia and opened their doors," he said.

"We still have the Cork Prison - the old one - that is vacant and could be used, though I understand there are also issues with staffing and monitoring in these cases."

The suggestion was criticised by former Lord Mayor Des Cahill, though.

"The prison wasn't fit for prisoners, I'm not sure it's suitable for homeless people.”

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