Kildare County Council offices at Aras Chill Dara
A 27-year-old homeless diabetic woman, who was sleeping rough in a Newbridge shed, was unable to access a bed for the night in Kildare on Thursday, March 9.
Emergency accommodation places were full, and Kildare County Council placed her at a guesthouse. However, when she arrived, she was turned away.
Cllr Joanne Pender (Ind), who was working on the girl’s behalf, was outraged.
“This is not good enough. It’s totally unacceptable. She had nowhere to go. She ended up sleeping on a mat at Merchants Quay in Dublin and she was terrified someone was going to steal her bag of medication,” she said.
The owner of the guesthouse said he was very sorry, but he had no choice but to turn the woman away, because she needed specialist care to suit her medical needs.
The homeless woman, who spoke to the Leader, was very upset.
“I am a diabetic and I have epilepsy, as well as a history of mental health issues. I couldn’t believe I was turned away after I went all the way up there,” she said.
Gerry O’Connor, the owner of Palmerstown Lodge, the private guesthouse she was assigned to by the council, said he really empathised with the lady’s situation but he had no other option.
“My personal feelings on what transpired (Thursday) yesterday evening is that specialist accommodation services were required. This should be assessed upon initial evaluation of the individual(s) and direct links, contacts and availability prearranged with a dedicated organisation such as Focus Ireland,” he stated.
He said the lady had arrived with a bag full of medication, including syringes, and he had not been notified by the council about her health problems. He also said she had also arrived a day earlier than expected.
Mr O’Connor said her appearance was dishevelled as she had been sleeping rough for some time.
He said he was trying to run a business and he had to think of his other guests.
Mr O’Connor said he rang the council and other emergency accommodation numbers to see they could secure a place for her.
Cllr Joanne Pender said the nature of emergency accommodation was that people would have to be booked in at short notice depending on what spaces are available.
The woman has been on the housing list for several years and had been sleeping in a shed across from Whitewater for over four weeks.
She said she is on medication for her illnesses and has been assessed by her GP.
Cllr Pender said Minister Coveney’s pledge that no homeless person would be staying in B&Bs or guest houses by July 1 looked totally out of reach.
Cllr Joanne Pender
Ultimately, she said councils all over the country would have to build more homes and they could not depend on the private sector in the long term.
“This wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last that something like this happens,” she said.
The woman is now being looked after in another guesthouse in CoKildare for the coming week, as plans are being put in place for transitional accommodation. She said she is relieved to have a roof over her head, and is hoping she won’t have to sleep rough ever again in the cold and damp conditions she had endured.
Cllr Pender points out that the Peter McVerry Trust is doing an excellent job in Kildare, and the emergency accommodation helpline is making a difference, but she stressed the service is at full capacity most of the time. “There just aren’t enough spaces available,” said Cllr Pender.
Kildare County Council said they are not in a position to comment, but confirmed they are aware of the matter.