Outrage | 

Council accused of housing dogs ahead of people as woman forced outside during storm Barra

'At a recent council meeting I discovered that the councils veterinary budget for 2022 far exceeds it’s homelessness budget'
Mary Maughan

Mary Maughan

Gerry Hand

A county council has been accused of housing dogs ahead of people and of doing ‘too little too late’ for a woman who was forced to sleep in the doorway of a bank at the height of Storm Barra last week.

Mary Maughan a member of the travelling community, has being sleeping in the doorway of the Bank Of Ireland in Carrick On Shannon for the last fifteen weeks after moving back to what is her home town, from Dublin.

And incredibly it has emerged that Leitrim County Council have no emergency accommodation facilities available and regularly send homeless people to neighbouring Sligo in emergency situations.

The situation has led to one local councillor claiming that the council is to spend more on a dog shelter in Dromahair than in housing the homeless.

Independent councillor Des Guckian is angered at the ongoing situation.

He blasted, ‘Carrick On Shannon is the capital of Ireland for hen and stag parties they take up a lot of the available bed space, and at a recent council meeting I discovered that the councils veterinary budget for 2022 far exceeds it’s homelessness budget.

‘When I queried that I was told it was because there is a very large dog shelter in Dromahair so basically they are prioritising the housing of animals ahead of humans, you could say hens, stags and dogs, are better looked after than homeless people.

‘Mary was given three nights in the Plaza hotel one week by the council but at the weekend she had to move out as a hen party had booked it out she was a week back on the street when they gave her another four nights in the Plaza but again she had to move out at the weekend to accommodate hen parties.

‘Mary Maughan chose the bank doorway because she felt safe as there is a security camera covering the area is that really what should be happening in 2021.

‘Leitrim county council is farming their homeless problem out to Sligo and in both the short and long term that is not the answer. It is a case of out of sight out of mind.’

Mary Maughan

Mary Maughan

A source who has been helping Mary said ‘ When the council became aware of the incoming storm they did offer Mary both a one bed and two bed apartment early in the week but being the decent type of person that she is she declined as she felt she would be skipping the queue, and that those who were on the housing list before her should be looked after first.

‘The result of that was she ended up sleeping in the bank doorway on Tuesday night, can you imagine how that must have felt.

‘When she first presented herself to the council they basically handed her a sleeping bag and that was it they couldn’t put her in an emergency place as they don’t have any.

‘The council appear to have learned nothing from Charlene Sherlock’s death’.

Ms Sherlock, also from the travelling community, was found collapsed under a bridge in Carrick-on-Shannon on July 13th, 2020 and was later pronounced dead at Sligo University Hospital.

Her father James has said he believes if his daughter was not a member of the travelling community more services and accommodation would have been made available, and the Sherlock family would not have lost their daughter, and sister.

At the inquest into Ms Sherlock’s death Garda Niall McDonnell revealed that he and his colleagues tried for a number of hours to secure emergency accommodation, contacting women's refuges across the country.

They were told by these organisations Covid-19 was a significant factor in the unavailability of emergency accommodation and were advised the best option was for Ms Sherlock to present herself to Leitrim County Council.

An application was made for housing to the local authority and the council said there was no housing stock available. Leitrim County Council gave Ms Sherlock a sleeping bag.

Garda McDonnell told her she could sleep in the public office of the garda station in Carrick-on-Shannon that night.

She was subsequently found dead under a bridge.

Noel Daly, General Manager for homeless charity Simon North West, put into stark relief the strain that Carrick-on-Shannon's ceaseless hospitality economy puts on homeless services.

‘In theory, the Department has said that there are 60 emergency beds across the north west but that includes 28 in Donegal that are actually readily available.

‘After that, the councils have to find a B&B or hotel that will take a booking, and that may or may not be possible.

‘Carrick is often spoken about as the hen capital of the country and the landlords aren't going to give that up to provide emergency accommodation for people that are homeless. It's very limited in terms of finding emergency accommodation.

‘In Leitrim you have to go into the private market, like B&Bs, and you're trying to get them to commit but they won't commit long-term. They won't make any commitment to taking anyone for even a week. It's a constant battle’.

A spokesperson from Leitrim county council said, ‘Where a person finds themselves homeless, they are required to present themselves to the Local Authority where they last resided.

‘Where an individual or household presents as homeless in Leitrim, they are assessed in line with the housing regulations, and where appropriate an offer of temporary emergency accommodation is made.

‘It is a matter for the individual to accept or refuse this offer of temporary emergency accommodation. The same applies to any offer of permanent housing that is offered to an individual or household, in their area of choice.

‘Temporary emergency accommodation provision in County Leitrim is accessed through B&Bs and Hotels and is at the discretion of the Hotel/B&B.

‘Leitrim County Council accesses temporary emergency accommodation in County Leitrim as a first choice and in Sligo Town and other locations when unable to access provision in County Leitrim.

‘Homelessness supports are funded through Exchequer funding and are claimed by Leitrim County Council for costs incurred after the provision of service.

‘Leitrim County Council can confirm that there are no persons sleeping rough on the streets of Carrick on Shannon or any other town in Leitrim, that the Council are aware of, that have not been offered a permanent housing solution in their area of choice.’

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