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Man left with “life-changing injuries” after vehicle hoisted his tent

By Katie Ascough - 17 January, 2020

Fr Peter McVerry

A man sleeping in a tent on the banks of the Grand Canal near Leeson Street Bridge in Dublin has been left seriously injured after a vehicle removed his tent during a Dublin City Council and Waterways Ireland clean-up, according to RTÉ.

The man underwent surgery in St Vincent’s University Hospital for what have been described as life-changing injuries. A series of investigations by a number of groups is under way.

Gardaí are appealing to any witnesses or any road users who may have video footage to contact the Pearse Street Gardaí on 01-666-9000, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800-666-111 or any other Garda station.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland yesterday, homeless campaigner and founder of the Peter McVerry Trust, Fr Peter McVerry, said that many homeless people are not accepting hostel accommodation because of fear for their safety, which drives them to find alternative accommodation in the form of tents and similar.

While some hostels are excellent, he says, in many hostels people are sharing a room with multiple strangers, some “injecting heroin or smoking crack cocaine at two o’clock in the morning in front of you”. Fr McVerry shared a report from a few days ago in which a man on a bottom bunk bed started stabbing the mattress above him in the middle of the night. “If you have that experience in a hostel, you’re going to be very slow to go back to a hostel again.”

Fr McVerry said it is because of their safety and comradeship that so many people who are homeless elect to live in tents. Otherwise, they would often wake up in a hostel with everyone missing, as well as all of their belongings – from their clothes to their mobile phones. “The second biggest complaint is being assaulted,” said Fr McVerry.

Another major frustration he raised regarding emergency accommodation was the non-separation of drug users and non-drug users. He suggests that everybody be given their own room, or at least their own partition, so they know their belongings will not be used, they won’t be assaulted and they won’t be sharing a space with active drug users.

“I would like to see HIQA [the Health Information and Quality Authority] given the responsibility of coming in and inspecting homelessness services. And I think if they did that there would be a lot of hostels that would be closed down overnight.”

On the other hand, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s response to the incident on the Grand Canal has been heavily criticised. According to RTÉ, the Taoiseach said that the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Paul McAuliffe, should make a statement on the matter. The Lord Mayor said he was “disappointed” with the Taoiseach’s response and that, in the face of a grave tragedy, “An Taoiseach appeared to be more interested in appointing blame to somebody else”. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin also pitched in, calling it “extraordinary” that the Taoiseach should call on the Lord Mayor of Dublin to make a statement.

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