Pubdate: Wed, 15 Dec 1999
Source: Irish Times (Ireland)
Copyright: 1999 The Irish Times
Contact:  11-15 D'Olier St, Dublin 2, Ireland
Fax: + 353 1 671 9407
Author: Kitty Holland


Patrick Kelly (33) has a wife and six children. He is also a heroin addict
and, since March, has slept rough in a squat near Dublin's Four Courts.

The squat, which is featured in a report on homelessness on RTC9
television's Prime Time programme tonight, is also "home" to up to 20 more
homeless drugusers and alcoholics.

In a now derelict pre-fab building, the squat was, until December last year,
a hostel for the homeless. It had been run by the Salvation Army, on behalf
of Dublin Corporation and the Eastern Health Board since December 1993.

Today, its doors are broken and shards of glass are strewn about the floor,
along with used syringes, empty cider cans, chocolate and cake wrappers and
empty cans of lighter fuel.

Stepping over burnt, filthy mattresses and remnants of furniture yesterday,
Patrick shows us the old kitchen - three rusting cookers pulled from the
walls; the men's toilets - its urinals smashed; several former bedrooms -
their walls scrawled with felt-tip graffiti, their windows smashed and old
hospital-style beds overturned.

"A junkie died in there a couple of weeks ago," says Patrick, pointing into
one room. "There on that bed. Some girl found him. He must have been dead
about two days I think. He was about 20. Don't know who he was."

Both men and women used it, he continues, some as young as 15. He says he
found himself on the streets as he had been "blacklisted" by the EHB because
he was wrongly accused of stealing from residents at a hostel in the city

Originally from Co Meath, he came to Dublin in 1980 and got work as a
plasterer. He married in 1984 and set up home with his wife in a local
authority house in Darndale. His wife's brother introduced him to heroin
seven years ago, he says. He never smoked the drug, injecting from the

"Yeah, it's terrible. I have six kids. They're aged 16, 14, 12, 10, eight
and Gemma, she's two. They live with my wife's mother now. It's lucky like,
that she took the kids. She said she'd take them while we got cleaned up."

His wife, he says, is 34 and though she too was "strung out", is now clean,
or drug-free.

They lost the house five years ago because he "had no interest in it". He
went to England, "because I thought it would be a new start" - however, he
took his habit with him. To feed it he began stealing - for which he got
three years in Brixton Prison.

"So, I came back here in February. I went home to my mother's for a week,
but she was throwing me vibes and I just left and came back to Dublin. I was
in a few hostels and then I was in one, and because two lads had their stuff
robbed that night and I just came in, they thought I'd done it. When I went
up to Charles Street [the EHB welfare centre for the homeless] to get
another place, they said they couldn't get me anywhere because I'd been
blacklisted. That was seven months ago."

Though he is hoping to come off drugs, and is attending a mobile methadone
clinic, Patrick says he still takes heroin almost every day.

Mr Brendan Kenny, principal officer in the housing section of Dublin
Corporation, yesterday expressed his "shock" that the former hostel was
still standing and being used as a squat for drug and alcohol use.

"I will be having that dealt with immediately," he said.

A spokeswoman for the EHB, which owns the land around St Brendan's Hospital
on which the building stands, said the board had 24-hour security at the
site, "but people are still managing to break in," she said, "and we plan to
demolish it." She could not say, however, when the board would demolish the

The problem of homelessness among drug users is escalating, according to Mr
Tony Geoghan of the Merchant's Quay Project in Dublin. Young women are
increasingly at risk, he says.

Studies in Dublin have found that between 60 and 90 per cent of drug addicts
have experienced homelessness, a status they attribute to being asked to
leave by neighbours, court-orders or vigilanteism.

Another factor is anti-social legislation, or the Housing Act 1997, which
aims to facilitate the easy eviction of people believed to be involved in
drug-selling or other drug-related antisocial behaviour. Last year, Dublin
Corporation carried out 44 evictions and 200 house repossessions related to
anti-social behaviour. It is thought, by drugs counsellors, that this has
contributed to the increasing incidence of rough-sleeping among drug-users.

Also, the creation of estate management committees in public housing
estates, which have the power to influence the allocation of housing, may
lead to the exclusion of known drug-users from public housing.

Active drug-users who are also homeless are often barred from hostel
accommodation. It contributes further, say drug-counsellors, to a high
incidence of rough sleeping among this sector of the homeless. As a
consequence of this, they say, such drug-users are more likely to inject and
to share needles.

Father Gerry Raftery OFM, of the Franciscan Justice Office, adds that
homeless drug-users are less likely to access health care or social welfare,
making it more likely that they would engage in criminal behaviour.

Yesterday afternoon, having shown us round his "home", Patrick says he's
"going for a ramble and maybe a cup of tea". He ambles up the muddy
slip-road, through the once-locked metal gates out of the old hospital

He has no plans for Christmas, apart from seeing his children.

Asked how he would ever get out of his current situation he replies: "All
things must come to an end".
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