THOMONDGATE residents and businesses say that they are “terrified” as they fear that more people with drug and alcohol problems will come into the area, after a social housing project was given the go-ahead last week.
Members of the new Thomondgate Residents Rights Group have objected to the council’s approval of the Mirth Development Project, which will consist of 18 single-bedroom apartments for people with “long-term accommodation needs”, at Brown’s Quay.
Last Wednesday, the council granted permission to Associated Charities Trust, which also operates Thomond House emergency accommodation and Altamira long-term social housing in Thomondgate.
Residents have condemned the ACT project, as they believe that a lot of anti-social behaviour in the area has come from service users at Thomond House.
Group chairperson Brenda Raels said that more than 400 people in the community have signed a petition against the housing project, adding that “there is absolutely no trust within the community for Associated Charities Trust.
“There are local residents here who are absolutely terrified, including businesses in the area.
“We have witnessed drugs being sold, we have witnessed unruly behaviour, fighting on the streets, screaming and shouting and killing each other. We have witnessed syringes on the ground, empty Xanax packets on the ground.
“It’s absolutely horrendous. They are intimidating to even pass down the street. It’s just unbelievable.”
She added that there is “absolutely nobody” in Thomondgate who wants the project to go ahead, and that the gardai “must be sick of being called out to the area”.
Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea, who met with the residents on Monday evening, told the Limerick Leader that the Mirth housing project will “complete the ghettoisation of Thomondgate.
“People’s lives have become much more difficult with activities from Thomond House, and this is going to exacerbate those difficulties.”
He said that the area has “really got more than its fair share of social housing”, and that council did not consider the “social aspect” of the project, which is to be built on a current derelict site.
“A derelict site is not a very desirable thing to have in your area, but a derelict site is preferable to a site that is going to be occupied by a whole lot of people who are going to double the amount of problems caused in the area by Thomond House.
“Anybody who stands back and looks at the social consequences of this new proposal that’s going ahead wouldn’t for one moment contemplate granting this in Thomondgate. It’s the last place in the city that another facility like this should be located,” Deputy O’Dea said.
ACT chairperson Brian Cronin said that he personally challenges Deputy O’Dea’s comments, which he claimed to be “all misinformation” and “incorrect”, and added that the new project will not “ghettoise” the area.
“I am certainly surprised that an elected representative would describe this development as such, or something that would ‘ghettoise’ the area of Thomondgate. If you look at Brown’s Quay as it presently stands, it’s a derelict site and has been for the last 10 or 12 years. And if anything was to ghettoise Thomondgate, it’s a derelict site of that size. And what we are planning to put on it is a brand new development of 18 one-bedroom apartments, and I can’t see how that would ghettoise the area.”
Mr Cronin said that the Mirth project is targeting those who are in long-term housing needs.
“It’s definitely not targeted at the clientele that would be presently in Thomond House because they would not be suitable because of the difficulties that they bring, that they have in their own lives, through drugs, drink, addictions.
“They would not be suitable for that, and they will not be accommodated in the Mirth project,” he explained.
He said though they have written to people who have objected to the project, he said that no one has contacted Thomond House or ACT on what type of clientele they plan to accommodate.
He said most people associate homelessness with people sleeping on the street, but ACT believes that homelessness can be associated with anyone in housing that they “can’t afford, or that it is not suitable to their particular needs, or who may not be secure in the accommodation that they are in”.