Belfast Telegraph

Gathering to discuss homelessness

Emergency talks on the homelessness crisis sparked by the death of a man sleeping rough across the street from the Dail will try to find out why things cannot be done better, Enda Kenny has said.

After Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin vowed to open up church property to rough sleepers, the Government said it would host a summit on Thursday involving those fighting homelessness.

The gathering of council chiefs, politicians and charities will "see how is it that we cannot do things better", the Taoiseach told the Dail.

Archbishop Martin had earlier called for a public summit in the aftermath of yesterday's death of Jonathan Corrie, 43, in a doorway on Molesworth Street.

He was one of several homeless men who sleep rough around the area and some are known to Mr Kenny and other TDs as they pass on their way to the parliament.

Gardai are not treating the death as suspicious and are awaiting port-mortem examination results to determine if the cold weather or drug use was a factor.

Met Eireann said temperatures in Dublin plunged to as low as 1.4C (35F) the previous night.

Drug paraphernalia was discovered close to the man's body, which was found by a passer-by on his way to work.

Amid an outcry over the death, the Archbishop has ordered staff to offer accommodation for between 30 and 40 people.

The shelter will be in a diocesan building in the north inner city.

A spokeswoman for the church leader said: "Archbishop Martin said he is very deeply concerned about a deeply divided Dublin where on the one hand there is rejoicing at increased spending over the Christmas period and on the other hand where the number of those homeless and hungry is actually increasing."

Defending the Government's stance, Mr Kenny said 55.5 million euro in taxpayers money had been set aside to deal with the deepening homelessness crisis.

But he rejected suggestions that an increase in rent supplement welfare payments to match soaring rents, particularly in the capital, would prevent families being thrown out of their homes. Mr Kenny said he knows homeless people himself, and speaks to them around the city.

"Some of them have very complicated problems and do not want to stay in accommodation," he told the Dail.

"It's very difficult because of the nature of their problems."

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said homelessness was not a Government priority, while Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said under Mr Kenny's watch anyone could lose their home.

Homelessness charities who work with those sleeping rough in the capital confirmed that they had been in contact with Mr Corrie before his death.

Believed to be originally from Co Kilkenny, his last known address was a hostel in Dublin, but he had been sleeping rough for years.

Official figures released just over a week ago show the number of people sleeping rough in Dublin has soared by a fifth over the past year.

At least 168 homeless people will be sleeping out over the coming weeks and months, it is suggested.

Last week, leading homelessness campaigner Sr Stanislaus Kennedy said the Government could stop families becoming homeless at the stroke of a pen to allow welfare payments to keep pace with rocketing rents.

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