A homeless man in Dublin was seriously injured Tuesday when an industrial vehicle tried to lift a tent he was sleeping in, according to local authorities, renewing concerns about a homeless population in the country that has more than tripled since 2014.
The cleanup effort was carried out Tuesday afternoon by Waterways Ireland, a local authority responsible for various water systems countrywide. In a statement, the group said it was working in tandem with the Dublin City Council to remove tents along the city’s Grand Canal, which had become “a public safety hazard.”
“Our thoughts are with the individual who was involved,” Waterways Ireland said, adding that it would not comment further because the investigation was ongoing. The Irish Times reported that the vehicle involved in the incident had a “mechanical arm and claw,” which was used to place the tents into a truck. In a statement Wednesday, police said the man remains hospitalized in serious but stable condition.
In statements posted on Twitter, Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH), a volunteer-based homeless advocacy organization in Dublin, condemned the circumstances that caused the man to be hurt and described the incident as “beyond disgusting.”
ICHH spokesman Brian McLoughlin named Waterways Ireland and the Dublin City Council as culpable in the incident, which he said caused the victim “life-changing” injuries.
“The man remains in hospital where he has suffered life-changing injuries from the machine used to remove his tent as he slept,” McLoughlin told CNN. “We cannot understand how someone could remove a tent, the man’s home with all of his belongings, without first checking if anyone or anything was inside the tent.”
The Dublin Regional Homeless Executive is currently liaising with the hospital and every support is being provided,” the council wrote. “Our thoughts are with the man at this time.”
McLoughlin said the mounting problems faced by the homeless in Dublin are exacerbated by the city’s limited public services. More than 10,448 people in the country rely on emergency homeless services, according to the advocacy organization Focus Ireland, citing government data from November. The vast majority of those cases are in Dublin.
Homeless people in the country, McLoughlin said, are regularly referred to “one-night-only” hostels, which order them to leave by 7 a.m. the next day. These hostels are generally unsafe and lack security, he added — meaning those lacking a permanent place to stay generally feel more comfortable sleeping outside in tents.
The concerns raised by McLoughlin largely mirror the experiences of homeless people in the United States, including in Washington, where threats of violence, lax safety precautions and limited services in shelters have fostered environments of fear and isolation. The removal of tents under a D.C. bypass last week horrified local advocates. City officials said the tents presented a dangerous obstacle for passersby.
“People are drawn to these encampments for very logical reasons,” Brian Carome, executive director of Street Sense Media, a newspaper and media organization in the District that advocates for the homeless, told The Washington Post. “They find living in a shelter intolerable and unhealthy.”
In Dublin, the man’s injury Tuesday has sparked at least four investigations, according to the Irish Times.
“Every action that is taken by state services is taken in the interest of health and safety of those individuals experiencing homelessness,” the Dublin City Council wrote in its statement, adding that police are investigating the matter.
“There will be no further comment,” it added.