Fr McVerry: Many homeless hostels would 'close down overnight' if they faced HIQA checks

The scene where a homeless man was involved in an incident along the Grand Canal in Dublin's City Centre. Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins

Much of Ireland's homeless accommodation would be "closed down overnight" if it faced similar quality checks to the country's hospitals, according to a prominent homelessness activist.

Fr Peter McVerry claimed that many homeless people feel safer in tents than in hostels where, he said, violence and drug-taking is rife.

The remarks are likely to heap further pressure on Leo Varadkar and Fine Gael on the election trail.

They have come under scrutiny for their response to the homelessness crisis in the wake of a number of high profile incidents this week.

The first of these saw a man suffer "life-changing" injuries in an incident on Dublin's Grand Canal on Tuesday.

He remains in a serious condition in hospital after his tent was removed by an industrial vehicle on Tuesday afternoon after he slept.

The injured man, who is from Eritrea and in his 30s, has undergone surgery for his injuries.

Four separate investigations are underway into the incident.

The incident dominated the first day of General Election campaigning, with Mr Varadkar and his party colleagues facing questioning at various public appearances.

The Taoiseach called for the Fianna Fáil lord mayor of Dublin, Paul McAuliffe, to account for the incident.

Mr Varadkar was later forced into an embarrassing climbdown after he was accused of politicising the incident.

Various homelessness charities have spoken out about the number of people sleeping in tents.

Fr McVerry warned that current hostel conditions are simply inadequate, with many people opting to stay in tents rather than stay in other accommodation.

He told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that people don't feel safe in hostels due to violence, drug-taking and thefts: "Some [hostels] are excellent but many don't feel safe."

He called for HIQA, the Government-funded agency monitoring the safety and quality of the healthcare and social care systems, to inspect homeless accommodation: "I think that if they did that, there would be a lot of hostels closed down overnight."

Two separate incidents have further illustrated the extent of the crisis.

A young woman, aged in her 20s, died in homeless accommodation in Dublin on Wednesday.

The incident is being treated as a personal tragedy by Gardaí.

Pic: The Homeless Street Cafe Facebook
Pic: The Homeless Street Cafe Facebook

Meanwhile, an image posted by the Dublin-based Homeless Street Café has gone 'viral'.

The picture shows an elderly woman eating her dinner from a windowsill in Dublin.

The Homeless Café wrote: "To be living in food or heat poverty at their age, relying on a soup kitchen for necessities is horrifying to witness.

"I watch this woman eat her meal from a plastic bowl on a window sill every week and I despair that this is her ‘golden years’."

On Thursday morning, Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) were called to reports of an elderly woman who had slept in the rain.

Antony Flynn, ICHH CEO, said the woman, who is 67 and suffers from dementia, had been soaked "to the bone" and was brought to hospital.

Mr Flynn said 'safe and secure' accommodation is lacking: "We are putting people into inhumane conditions at the most vulnerable time of their life.

"People deserve dignity and stability, but the current system, in spite of staff trying their best in difficult circumstances, is simply unfit for purpose.

"We cannot continue to compound people’s suffering at the most vulnerable time in their life."

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