New councillor offers to bring colleagues on tour of Wexford to highlight homeless crisis
NEWLY co-opted councillor Tony Walsh has offered to bring councillors who don’t believe there are people sleeping rough in Wexford on a tour of the town and introduce them to at least 10 people who are in that predicament.
Cllr. Tony Walsh of People Before Profit was responding to a claim by Cllr. Ger Carthy (Independent) that the number of rough sleepers in the area is not as high as it is made out to be.
At last week’s Wexford Municipal District meeting, Cllr. Carthy said he has been a paramedic for 16 years and he has been in every street and laneway at all hours of the day and night and he has only ever seen one person sleeping rough.
‘The idea that the streets are littered with homeless people is wrong. I’m out 24 hours and I have only ever witnessed one person sleeping in rough conditions in 16 years and that was in the bushes in Rosslare’.
Cllr. David Hynes (Independent) said he would have to disagree with that. ‘Where are they’, asked Cllr. Carthy. Cllr. Hynes said his sister-in-law Kitty Hynes was in the St. Vincent de Paul Society for many years and two years ago when Ozanam House was full, they had to hand out sleeping bags.
Cllr. Walsh said he would be willing to bring anyone on a tour of four or five places in Wexford where he can show them at least 10 people who are homeless.
Cllr. Lisa McDonald of Fianna Fail said there is definitely more than one person sleeping rough in Wexford. ‘We don’t have adequate emergency housing to cater for homeless people. Let’s not start ‘Trump-ising’ in the Council. If we have a problem, let’s say it and we do have a problem’, she added.
Mr. O’Gorman said rough sleepers were among 335 people who presented as homeless in 2016 including 88 homeless people in B&B’s.
Earlier, Cllr. Walsh had objected to the use of the term ‘rough sleepers’ in a housing report presented by Mr. O’ Gorman in relation to the measures taken by Council area housing teams, the gardai and the HSE to ensure that emergency accommodation was provided for them during Storm Ophelia. A total of 16 people were contacted on the morning of October 16 and accommodation provided where required, according to ther report.
‘Rough sleeper is a judgemental term that should not be part of our vocabulary. We should really refer to them as homeless people’, said Cllr. Walsh.
‘The North Wexford Housing Action Group paid for accommodation for people in Gorey that night. It’s appalling that even 13 people were homeless on that night. It’s a sad reflection on us as public representatives. Twenty-four tents and sleeping bags have been handed out by Wexford Housing Action since last August’, he added.
Director of Services Tony Larkin said the housing manager meant no disrespect is using the term which was coined by the Department of the Environment to differentiate rough sleepers from people who are homeless but living under a roof and to identify them as a separate category requiring particular support services. ‘Our level of service provided to homeless people is extraordinary’, he said.
Cllr. George Lawlor said: ‘I don’t think it’s a derogatory term. It’s a term used by the Department to describe the conditions they are sleeping in. There are quite a lot of people sleeping rough in Wexford.’
‘Some of them would have difficulty engaging with authority but it’s our job to try and engaged with them’, he added.
During the discussion, Cllr. Hynes condemned the recent comments of Eileen Gleeson, the head of Dublin Region Homeless Executive who said for a person to become homeless ‘it takes years of bad behaviour’ and homelessness would not be solved by unauthorised groups handing out food.
‘We should nail this lie that says don’t feed the homless because you’ll only encourage them’, said Cllr. Hynes.
Cllr. Lawlor described the language used by Ms. Gleeson as ‘appalling’.
‘As a public representative I cringed listening to her’, he said.
Cllr Tony Walsh.