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Homeless hell Shock as homeless man found sleeping in bin by protesting Debenhams workers

"The main worry was that the bin men would come and empty the bins. We have seen it in Dublin where a bin was emptied and a person was killed."

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A tent outside Debenhams on Patrick Street, Cork

A tent outside Debenhams on Patrick Street, Cork

A tent outside Debenhams on Patrick Street, Cork

PROTESTING Debenhams workers were horrified to discover a homeless man sleeping in a large commercial rubbish bin in an Irish city centre.

The man, who normally sleeps in a tent pitched in the doorway of the former Cork store, had gone into the green plastic bin in a desperate bid to find shelter from the driving sleet and rain on Tuesday night.

Claire O'Leary of Watergrasshill in Co Cork was on a socially-distanced picket outside the St Patrick Street store with a colleague when they made the shocking discovery as they disposed of two coffee cups.

"My colleague lifted the lid on the bin and she said: 'There is someone in there... there is someone in there.” She put the lid down again. She got such a fright."

"There was a workman passing by. She said it to him and he went down and had a look and the man was just asleep. The main worry was that the bin men would come and empty the bins. We have seen it in Dublin where a bin was emptied and a person was killed."

"I would be saying to shop owners and companies to be vigilant. Keep an eye on them. They are only trying to stay in from the elements."

Elaine Kelleher, who is also on Debenhams picket duty on St Patrick's Street, said that what they have seen on the streets outside the store over the last 285 days feels like "another world" from when they were employed in the historic high street store.

Ms Kelleher said they were particularly moved by the poignant image of a man who has started sleeping at the entrance under a picket sign they erected which warned: "The Taoiseach has let us down badly."

"When we were working in the store we saw people begging for money on the street but in the last nine months we have really seen and spoken to homeless people.

"We have fed them, we have chatted to people and are on a first name basis with some people. They have given us their life stories."

"One poor guy said to me that he was going to die on the streets. That was Christmas week. He said he was going to die of cold. He already has a weak chest."

Cork Penny Dinners manager, Caitríona Twomey, said it was tragic to see the lengths homeless people have to resort to just to stay warm and dry.

A field less than 1km from Cork city centre was dubbed 'Tent City' because of the number of homeless people living under canvas.

Protests by Debenhams workers have continued after the terms of a settlement package were rejected.

Mandate, which represents 1,000 former Debenhams workers, urged Taoiseach Micheál Martin to make €3m involved available to the workers in cash payments rather than upskilling supports.

Claire O'Leary had her first day back on the picket earlier this week after giving birth to daughter Grace ten weeks ago.

Over 1,000 workers lost their jobs last Easter when the UK retail giant decided to axe their entire Irish operation in a vain bid to save their UK stores.

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