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Homeless services plan working as Storm Emma moves in

By Noel Baker

Homeless services have said expanded efforts to make sure no one is left untended during the cold snap are working, but said continuing vigilance was needed as Storm Emma escalates later in the week.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive said anyone who sought a bed on Tuesday night received one, with some service providers operating on a 24/7 basis and outreach Housing First teams doubled to cover the cold weather period.

However, Merchants Quay Ireland, which operates the unique night cafe offering food and shelter, said it was running short of winter clothing for its clients and appealed for donations, particularly of hats, gloves and scarves.

In Cork extended services from Simon, St Vincent de Paul and others have ensured adequate cover for those at risk of rough sleeping, with volunteers yesterday giving extra food and supplies to the Cork Penny Dinners, with others helping to collect clients to bring them in for a meal.

In the capital the DRHE said more than 175 additional spaces had ensured anyone who contacted the freephone number seeking accommodation got a bed.

Bevin Herbert of the DRHE said: “with the extra capacity everyone who sought [a bed] last night was accommodated.

“The outreach Housing First teams have been doubled for the week and are engaging with people sleeping rough.

“Every contingency plan we have in place is working.”

Among those now operating on a round-the-clock basis is Merchants Quay. Brenda Kane, coordinator of the open access services there said it had been offering food, respite and hygiene services to clients and has been at full 60-persons-a-night capacity in its night cafe, in which people sleep on mats on the floor.

“We will continue to do so throughout the cold weather,” she said. “We are hoping the weather will pass quite quickly.”

MQI issued an appeal for donations of clothing, sparked by demand.

“We are facing, due to the cold weather, a situation where resources and supplies are in high demand,” Ms Kane said. “If there is anybody out there who can donate warm clothing, especially hats, gloves and scarves, we would be very grateful.”

Donations were also received by the Cork Penny Dinners, with volunteer Caitriona Twomey praising CGI in Midleton and the coordinated efforts of the City Council and other support agencies in assisting those at risk of homelessness or living in poor conditions.

Ms Twomey said volunteers had helped ferry some people to its dinner service yesterday while extra vegetables had been donated and schools, closed because of the weather, had donated lunches and water, while Griffin’s Garden Centre has given soup and brown bread.

“We had 300 people yesterday in all,” Ms Twomey said. “Some people are snowed in and we are getting stuff out to them.”

Visitors have also been receiving large good packs designed to help them get over the coming days of the weather prevents them from visiting the service.

Ms Twomey said she believed there was only one person sleeping rough in the city on Tuesday night and he was constantly monitored by outreach workers.

“Simon have created extra beds and spaces and between them and the SVP and ourselves it’s covered,” she said.

Focus Ireland, which provides Services and Housing in counties Carlow, Clare, Cork, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Limerick, Louth, Monaghan, Sligo, Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford, urged any rough sleepers to avail of accommodation as the weather threatens to worsen as the week progresses.

Focus Ireland Advocacy Manager Roughan MacNamara said: “Our staff work every day of the year, and the 24/7 work will continue throughout the coming days.”