A STREET search of Limerick conducted by homeless services last week found no evidence of rough sleeping in the city.
Rob Lowth, co-ordinator of homeless services, Limerick City and County Council, told members of the Limerick Metropolitan District that while rough sleeping still occurs, this was in “significantly lower” numbers than elsewhere and there was adequate capacity to meet the emergency accommodation needs of anybody willing to accept help.
Mr Lowth was speaking as councillors debated the extent of rough sleeping in Limerick.
Pat Dowling, the council’s deputy CEO, said the issue was one which “often comes up at this time of year”.
“Every effort has been made to ensure we have had a very well developed homeless service in Limerick for a decade and that we will continue to have. There is no need to be homeless on the streets of Limerick this Christmas. That is the message that must emanate from this chamber,” he said.
The council has also issued figures on the numbers of people given emergency accommodation in recent weeks and months. A place to stay was provided to 205 people in such circumstances in the week up to and including Sunday, December 14.
And average council figures for seven-day periods during the previous months show 211 in June, 201 in July, 212 in August, 208 in September, 218 in October and 229 in November were placed in emergency hostels, transitional accommodation and long-term supported housing.
Fine Gael’s Cllr Maria Byrne welcomed the fact that the last death of a homeless person on the streets of Limerick had occurred as far back as 2009, where such tragedies had been happening at a rate of two or three a year prior to that.
But Fianna Fail’s Cllr Sean Lynch said that while rough sleeping may not be as significant a problem as in other cities there were still a number - less than 10 - who for various reasons chose not to go into hostels and were on the streets. McGarry House on Alphonsus Street, which provides emergency accommodation, was “full nine times in 10”, Cllr Lynch asserted.
Mr Lowth told members that council staff, together with personnel from the HSE and NGOs had conducted a street search in the early hours of last Wednesday morning.
This had included at locations - Kate O’Brien’s birthplace on Mulgrave Street, in the stairwells of apartment blocks at Mount Kennett and in car parks - where they had received reports of rough sleeping.
“We are not saying it doesn’t happen but we saw nobody bedded down on the night,” Mr Lowth said.