Some homeless people in Cork deliberately reoffending to get off the streets, according to Penny Dinners director

Some homeless people in Cork deliberately reoffending to get off the streets, according to Penny Dinners director

Caitriona Twomey pictured on Gravel Lane across from Penny Dinners, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

A NUMBER of people are deliberately reoffending to access a roof over their heads in prison as homelessness remains a significant problem in Cork city.

That is according to the director of soup kitchen charity Cork Penny Dinners on Little Hanover Street, Caitriona Twomey, who said more Government support is needed for services dealing with vulnerable people in the city.

Ms Twomey remarked that one person had even committed a series of public order offences in a desperate attempt to return to jail.

She emphasised that, for a number of people, prison is a more attractive option than life on the streets because they are guaranteed a bed at night.

"You have people that can't manage who feel that prison is preferable to being on the outside," she said. 

"The services in Cork, to help people rebuild their lives, exist and are working well but there is not enough money [pumped] into them by the Government."

According to the latest monthly Homeless Report, 395 people in Cork were accessing emergency accommodation during the week of April 19 to 25.

"They can be experiencing anything from health problems to poverty or addictions. People talk to us saying that they would rather be on the inside. You can see where the despair comes from. 

"By being in the prison system they have a roof over their heads and know that they can access services and try to get stronger. It can be a place where they can ground themselves and become more structured. 

According to the latest monthly Homeless Report, 395 people in Cork were accessing emergency accommodation during the week of April 19 to 25.
According to the latest monthly Homeless Report, 395 people in Cork were accessing emergency accommodation during the week of April 19 to 25.

The former Cork Person of the Month described why homelessness can be a sentence in itself.

"Going from being warm to having no bed is a huge shock to the system. It's hard to work through the issues you are going through when you don't even have somewhere to sleep. When someone is on the streets and unable to access a bed they often see prison as the only option."

She acknowledged that a pattern has emerged with regard to former criminals trying to re-enter prison.

"We had one person who was in prison a long time and was doing their utmost to get back in. [They have] complex issues. When you're going to prison from a young age each time gets harder to readjust to the outside world. For some, prison is a safety net. 

"It's preferable to the despair they experience in the outside world. When you are knocking on doors that aren't open it can be extremely difficult. Cork prison does such great work in terms of rehabilitation and practical things like setting prisoners up with medical cards for when they are on the outside. 

"Unfortunately, no matter how much preparation they put in some just don't have the coping skills. As far as they are concerned they are better off on the inside.

"Organisations like the Cork Alliance Centre, who work with people released from prison, are doing amazing work and need as much support as possible."

For more information on supports available for prisoners following their release visit visit the Cork Alliance website.

Cork homeless services are available here.

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