‘They are treating the Liberties like it’s a toilet’

by Emma Nolan
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There is uproar in the Liberties as a local community centre is to be turned into a 65-bed hostel for rough sleepers.
Over 60 local residents protested at the green on Ash Street, off Carman’s Hall and Francis Street where the St Nicholas of Myra community centre is located, last Thursday night.
Protesters were forced to gather on the street because they no longer have a community centre.
Resident Rita O’Neill told The Gazette that everyone in the local community used the centre before it closed down. From children’s dance and sports clubs, to meals for the elderly, she says it has been greatly missed by all.
“We have enough homeless hostels in the area as it is, we’re putting up with enough here,” she says.
The locals have been accused of “NIMBY-ism” online and in the media. Their response to this is that there are many homeless hostels already in their backyard, so to speak.
“Let them come and live with them [the rough sleepers],” Rita says.
Another local Margaret Smith hopes that the community centre will be reopened.
“It should have been left as a centre for the community.
“We’re the only area around here that doesn’t have a community centre.”
Also in attendance at the protest were a number of local politicians including Councillors Criona Ni Dhalaigh, Rebecca Moynihan, Tina McVeigh and Pat Dunne along with Senators Maire Devine and Catherone Ardagh and Minister of State Catherine Byrne.
Cllr Ni Dhalaigh said that the protest represents a campaign to get the centre reopened for the community and not one against opening a homeless hostel.
“We can’t have people on the streets, but the community need their centre.”
The former Lord Mayor said the area is currently “at saturation point” with homeless and drug services.
“It’s not NIMBY-ism because it’s already there, in excess,” she added.
Construction workers can now be seeing carrying out renovations on the building in preparation for the rough sleepers.
Liberties residents have already been trying to raise awareness about the concentration of homeless and addiction services in the area.
There are nearly 600 homeless, long-term supported, drug treatment beds and hotel rooms for homeless families within a mile of the Carman’s Hall centre – the highest concentration in the city – including The Viking Hotel Lodge just across the road from the centre which already houses several homeless families.
Figures released by the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) show that city centre areas have the highest number of homeless accommodation provided by them with Dublin 1 having a total of 866 people spread out the whole postcode. Dublin 8 is next on 666.
By contrast Dublin 4 which includes Ringsend and Ballsbridge have just 78 emergency places and Dublin 6W has none.
The entire South County area which includes Dun Laoghaire and Blackrock has only 178 places.
The St Nicholas centre, which is owned by the Dublin Diocese, closed three years ago due to lack of funding. The council attempted to take control of the building to keep it open, but the Diocese refused. It has been lying idle ever since and has gone into a state of disrepair.
Another local resident Eoghan O’Riain says that while he understands the need for the service and he doesn’t mind living near a homeless hostel, he has an issue with “the complete lack of balance in how the services are spread across the city”.
“When the services are all focused on one area we know that it will have huge knock on effects on antisocial behaviour,” he says.
“What we’re seeing here is this concentration reaching unsustainable levels in a working class area which already lacks community services.
“Why aren’t we seeing hostels opening in Killiney, Blackrock and Ballsbridge? Because these areas’ inhabitants have political power with influence on government.”

ISSUES
Residents voiced a number of issues at Thursday night’s protest.
Pauline Mooney told The Gazette that she’s also worried about the anti-social behaviour that comes with living close to another homeless hostel.
As well as that, she said that residents were not consulted on the decision to convert the centre into a hostel.
Joyce Reid addressed the clearly upset crowd.
“The streets are a disgrace – I know that homeless people have to go to the toilet, but where are they doing it? Down our little lane ways and alley ways because the Government treat our area like it’s a bloody toilet.
“I’m proud of where I reared my children and I think it’s time we spoke up and defended our community,” she added as her neighbours applauded.
Another resident, Anita, said that the centre was an “invaluable” part of the area. She added: “The Government have bypassed, the community, the neighbours and the council to put this rough sleepers hostel in.
“Is it a hostel that’s going to take people in and look after them? No. There’s going to be queues of people waiting outside that might be rejected when it’s full so they’ll have to pitch a tent outside.
“Our children are already exposed to this – we’re trying to shelter them from certain lifestyles, now we have to explain to them when we’re walking to school in the morning, why that poor soul is there asleep on the street.”
A member of the crowd asked: “Are there any of these hostels going into Ballsbridge?” To which a resounding “No” was the response.
Anita added: “I think it’s a shame that we’re left with the guilt as well, of looking at people who have been turfed out of hostels at 9am and they’ve nowhere to go to the toilet or wash themselves, they’re walking the streets and congregating around here.”

WHO ARE THESE ROUGH SLEEPERS?
The crowd were also very concerned about who exactly will be admitted to the hostel.
One woman said she had a frightening experience recently when she witnessed “a homeless man exposing and rubbing his privates” walking behind three children as they walked home from school in the area.
Another man whose young child attends the creche next to the community centre asked: “Was there any risk assessment done when they decided to put a rough sleepers hostel for 65 men next door to a creche?”
Another woman, who has worked in homeless services for the last 15 years, said that she is “very aware of what happens with rough sleepers”.
She told the crowd: “Rough sleepers have no garda vetting, they can be from anywhere, you don’t know who is coming through the door.
“Our children will be passing by every day and will witness what goes on and they’ll see sights that we’ve protected them from for the last 20 years as we’ve tried to build our community back up.
“What’s being done here is very underhanded.”
Minister of State for Communities and National Drugs Strategy Catherine Byrne then addressed the crowd.
The Fine Gael TD told them that she too had just found out about the news and that she had spoken with the Minister for Housing and the Taoiseach on the matter.
She then reiterated the Government’s stance on tackling the homeless crisis and said that so many rough sleepers are placed in the south inner city because the majority of them are from there.
“Statistics show that they come from the south inner city and the north inner city. This winter we’re short about 200 beds so the Minister [for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Simon Coveney]decided to get temporary accommodation so people wouldn’t be sleeping on the streets.”
This statement was met with anger from the crowd who said that the rough sleepers are not from the area because they would know them if they were.
“No locals from around here are living on the streets,” one said.
It is also clear from walking past many homeless people every day, that a high percentage of them are not Irish, going by their accents.
“That is a lie. If you go down Long Lane where there are loads of homeless people, there are more foreign people there than Dublin people,” another resident added.
The Government were also accused of using a short-term solution to getting people off the streets to reduce the rough sleeper figures.
Minister Byrne added: “Putting all the community part aside, the fact that you lost your community centre, that has nothing got to do with today’s situation [the centre being converted into a rough sleepers hostel].”
Councillors said they will be working to reach an alternative solution to reopening the centre for the community and working to have homeless and
drug services more evenly redistributed throughout the city. Meetings between local representatives, locals, the council and the government were proposed also.
Local residents agreed that they would form a
picket line at the community centre to prevent it from being turned into a rough sleepers hostel.

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