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‘New people on the streets’ in Dublin as coronavirus lockdown hits

People made shelters in hedges, shop doorways, between the columns of court buildings and underneath wheelie bins.

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New people have slept rough on the streets of Dublin as the coronavirus lockdown hits, an aid worker said (Niall Carson/PA)

New people have slept rough on the streets of Dublin as the coronavirus lockdown hits, an aid worker said (Niall Carson/PA)

New people have slept rough on the streets of Dublin as the coronavirus lockdown hits, an aid worker said (Niall Carson/PA)

New people have slept rough on the streets of Dublin as the coronavirus lockdown hits, an aid worker said.

They sheltered in hedges, shop doorways, between the columns of court buildings and underneath bins, an eye witness said.

The Inner City Helping Homeless organisation gave out hot drinks, sweets, crisps and toiletries, volunteer Padraig Drummond added.

It has suggested a fifth of the people it helps have contracted the virus.

The infection has proved challenging for the homeless, with shelters managing with restrictions around social distancing.

Mr Drummond said: “We reached an average of around 50 people tonight.”

He said their only shelters were sleeping bags.

Mr Drummond added: “That is regular, this is night on night this is happening, for the duration of the lockdown.”

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The volunteers wore protective equipment as they handed out hot drinks (Niall Carson/PA)

The volunteers wore protective equipment as they handed out hot drinks (Niall Carson/PA)

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The volunteers wore protective equipment as they handed out hot drinks (Niall Carson/PA)

The volunteers wore protective equipment in an effort to shield themselves against the virus as they handed out hot drinks from a van.

Extra personal protective equipment has recently been donated to the organisation.

They have also helped to clean people’s tents.

Mr Drummond said they were giving out sanitation products.

“We have from age 18 up to 70 living on the streets at the moment.

“There are some long-terms and there are others we came across, a few new people on the streets and I have never seen them before.”

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Rough sleeper Gerry Wall is visited by Inner City Helping Homeless outreach volunteer Avril Darker in his tent in Dublin’s affluent Clontarf area (Niall Carson/PA)

Rough sleeper Gerry Wall is visited by Inner City Helping Homeless outreach volunteer Avril Darker in his tent in Dublin’s affluent Clontarf area (Niall Carson/PA)

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Rough sleeper Gerry Wall is visited by Inner City Helping Homeless outreach volunteer Avril Darker in his tent in Dublin’s affluent Clontarf area (Niall Carson/PA)

Some homeless charities have challenged official figures suggesting the number of rough sleepers in Ireland’s capital is down to its lowest level for decades.

The Dublin Outreach team is on the street from 7am to 1am, working in partnership with the Dublin Region Homeless Executive to find suitable accommodation for people who are rough sleeping during Covid-19, the Dublin Simon Community said.

It added: “Face-to-face contact is being prioritised for these people as we work to secure rolling beds in appropriate accommodation where they will be safe and supported throughout this crisis.

“The soup-run service is now being provided each night by the Dublin Outreach team to reduce risk for clients and volunteers.”

Dublin Simon Community is working closely with Safetynet, which is leading the Covid-19 testing of individuals across all homeless services.

They said: “In the event that a person on the street began to display symptoms, the Dublin Outreach team would contact Safetynet and lead the patient to a self-isolation unit as directed.

“The Dublin Simon Community Step-Up Step-Down unit, which we run in conjunction with Safetynet, has increased its bed count during Covid-19 to provide medical support to 20 more homeless patients.

“The expansion of the unit will also mean that 36 beds are available in acute hospitals for those in need due to Covid-19.

“Our management team are meeting remotely each day and are in regular contact with the Health Service Executive (HSE), Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), Department of Housing, Safetynet and other agencies.”

The HSE said a specific co-ordination group and response team had been established to support the health of people experiencing homelessness during the Covid-19 outbreak.

It said testing was being offered to those most at risk.

“This includes assessment for Covid-19, transport to and placement in self-isolation beds, including integrated health and accommodation supports for persons tested positive that do not require hospitalisation,” said a spokeswoman.

She said the HSE, working in partnership with the DRHE, was providing additional accommodation, including 670 additional beds for cocooning and self-isolation.

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Inner City Helping Homeless volunteers help a rough sleeper in Dublin city centre (Niall Carson/PA)

Inner City Helping Homeless volunteers help a rough sleeper in Dublin city centre (Niall Carson/PA)

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Inner City Helping Homeless volunteers help a rough sleeper in Dublin city centre (Niall Carson/PA)

The DRHE said it was working with Dublin Simon Outreach and the Peter McVerry Trust to offer accommodation to all rough sleepers.

“The teams are very familiar with the locations of people sleeping rough across the Dublin region and persistently work with individuals to support them into emergency accommodation,” it said.

“This process can take time and multiple contacts, as some people do not want to engage (for whatever reasons) but the teams persevere with every person working to achieve a successful outcome.”

It said there had been a “significant reduction” in the numbers of people sleeping rough.

“Some of the people sleeping rough have come into regular emergency accommodation and others identified with underlying conditions have been placed in one of our cocooning facilities,” said the DRHE statement.

“Over the last week the numbers have dropped as low as 25 with higher spikes at times. We are continuing to monitor the situation, along with the teams, to ensure that the more vulnerable members of our society are protected during this crisis.”

The DRHE urged the public to alert it to people sleeping rough.

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