City desk

In Temple Bar, a Tattoo Parlour Turns on an Anti-Homeless Sprinkler

Margarita Rose Ryan was homeless for seven years. She says she is sad to hear that some businesses in Dublin are now making life even harder for people who are sleeping rough.

Dublin Ink, a tattoo parlour in Temple Bar, has installed sprinklers to deter homeless people from sleeping at the front of their premises.

“It is dangerous enough sleeping rough, with the risk of being attacked while you are asleep, and the guards kicking you to wake you up and move you on, not to mind getting soaked now as well,” says Ryan.

A small woman with dyed red hair, Ryan says life on the streets is hard and dangerous. She was a victim of an attempted rape while sleeping rough in Phibsborough, she says.

The sprinklers outside Dublin Ink are triggered by a motion sensor. They’re aimed at rough sleepers, but could wet anyone who stands under the shelter at their premises in Cow’s Lane. They have an area at the front and down the side of shop, with seats outside and the building above them starts above it providing a smalls sheltered area.

There were no warning signs to alert people to the sprinklers when we visited on Monday, but Dublin Ink staff said Tuesday they have now put up warning signs, as well as information about the Dublin Simon Community.

Shane Green, a staff member at Dublin Ink, says they’ve used the sprinklers in the past – and turned them back on a month ago – because of “six years of coming in to dirty syringes and having to clean up human faeces every morning”. Ultimately, “our priority is the well-being and safety of our staff”.

Dublin Ink has made numerous complaints to Dublin City Council about the issue of rough sleepers using the shelter in front of the shop and discarding hazardous waste there, Green said. He says the area needs consistent policing.

Life on the Streets

On a recent Monday, Ryan and her friend Peter Molloy were outside the Focus Ireland Café in Temple Bar. Ryan was recently housed after spending years homeless; Molloy is still homeless.

Molloy moves between rough sleeping and staying in emergency hostels or the sleeping mats in Merchants Quay. He is a big man, outgoing and talkative.

Molloy says that he knew two homeless men who used to sleep outside Dublin Ink, one of whom he thinks has now passed away.  He says the sprinklers are a “disgrace”.

“They should just do what all the other businesses do and get you up and move you on when they come in in the morning,” he says.

Molloy says homeless people fair better in the Henry Street area, where he thinks businesses and staff are more friendly toward them, compared to in Temple Bar.

Businesses in the city are generally decent towards homeless people, although occasionally staff will throw a cold bucket of water over someone to move them on, Molloy says.

He says there is no need for this type of reaction, and that “99.9 percent of homeless people will get up and move no problem once they are asked to”.

However, staff at Dublin Ink say they were facing more than just people sleeping outside the shop each morning. They showed me photos of blood, vomit, and needles outside their premises.

When asked about this, Molloy said the men he knew wouldn’t have been the cause of this, because they weren’t drug users.

Anti-Homeless Architecture

Molloy and Ryan said there are other premises in the city that target rough sleepers.

The fence at the back of the old motor tax office near the Four Courts is greased to stop homeless people from climbing into the backyard, Molloy said. “That means that if you were trying to climb up, you could fall backwards and split your skull open,” he says.

At the old motor tax office – River House on Chancery Street – earlier this week, each pole of the fence was covered in black grease near the top.

The fence itself is black, so people probably wouldn’t see the grease, especially in the dark. There were no warning signs up to let people know.

The owners of River House, Linders of Smithfield, said on Tuesday they were not aware of the grease and would look into the matter. (They hadn’t got back to us before deadline.)

Molloy says that after the grease was put on the fence, three homeless couples who had been sleeping in the back of the building started to sleep on the steps at the front. This area was then fenced off.

There is, indeed, temporary fencing around the steps at River House, but Linders’ agent was unable to confirm why it is there.

Like Molloy, Anti-Austerity Alliance Councillor Michael O’Brien says businesses installing sensor-driven sprinklers outside their premises is a “disgrace”.

“If anyone was to wander in there, they could get a soaking, but if it was a sub-zero night, and especially if you are homeless, that is really bad and potentially very dangerous,” says O’Brien.

Dublin Ink staff say the sprinklers are light and would not “soak” someone unless they stayed there for a long time. You can see a video of the sprinklers here.

In January of this year, the Independent reported that the Department of Social Protection was heavily criticised for installing “anti-homeless” bars at its offices in Gandon House on Amiens Street.

The OPW and the Department of Social Protection said a private landlord who owns the building was responsible for the modifications.

Following that controversy, O’Brien and Independents 4 Change Councillor Pat Dunne proposed a motion to Dublin City Council calling for building modifications targeting rough sleepers – known as “defensive architecture” – to be banned.

O’Brien says he was then advised by Dublin City Council officials that legislation is required at national level to ban these modifications, as an amendment to the Planning Act is required.

He is currently working on a bill to ban defensive architecture, which his AAA colleagues plan to propose to the Dáil in 2017.

O’Brien says there are many examples of defensive architecture around the city, including railings at Agriculture House in Kildare Street, where he works as a parliamentary secretary.

What’s the Solution?

According to Molloy, the solution is simple: to prevent rough sleeping, Dublin needs more hostels and more beds for homeless people.

Ryan and Molloy both think more beds are being closed at the moment than opened. But Mark Kennedy of Merchants Quay says that 200 new units of emergency accommodation are coming on line this weekend.

He says homeless people don’t want to sleep rough, and there is a desperate clamour of people trying to access beds every night.

Many businesses in the city are very kind to homeless people, he says, and keen to help by providing them with food and other assistance. “We would be advocating for a compassionate response,” he says.

Dublin Ink’s Green suggests that clean injecting areas should be provided in Dublin, which might reduce the hazardous waste that businesses encounter. (The government’s been talking for a while about doing that.)

But then there’s the issue of the human faeces Dublin Ink say they’ve had to clean up. The provision of public toilets in the city is another issue that’s long been under discussion.

So until the government steps up and does something about homelessness, drug-use, and the lack of public toilets, the sprinkler is the only way Dublin Ink staff can protect themselves, they say. They provided some photos to illustrate what they said they have to deal with on a daily basis  in front of their shop:

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Note: Nick Boyle of Dublin City Council’s waste-management division says staff there are trained and have the appropriate equipment, so businesses that find hazardous waste should contact them at 01 222 42 42.

[UPDATE: This article was updated on 19:50 on 8 December to include more of the photos provided by Dublin Ink to illustrate what it says staff deal with outside their shop.]

Laoise Neylon portrait
Laoise Neylon

Laoise Neylon is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at lneylon@dubinq.com.

 

Comments

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  2. Matthew
    7 December at 10:00

    Dublin Inquirer – just wanted to say kudos for making this a fair and well-balanced article, the lack of hyperbole and your attempts to understand why businesses might do this are both appreciated. I might disagree with their choices, but it’s good to read an article that doesn’t attempt to make a villain out of anyone.

  3. Daragh
    7 December at 13:53

    Can’t really blame the business. They pay rent and rates and shouldn’t have to come in each day to see blood, crap, and vomit outside the front door. The homeless crisis is now out of control. It was only a matter of time before business’s felt they had to take matters into their own hand.

  4. Aine Ni Rodain
    7 December at 15:38

    Other than the needle and the obvious “cardboard bedroom” everything else shown in that video could be the discardings of a non homeless person. The condom, the bloody tissue, the piss, the shit and the vomit more than likely all belong to people who have homes to go to and beds to sleep in. To imply that it all came from “homeless” people is extremely disingenuous to say the least.

  5. Darren McKenna
    7 December at 17:05

    I think he is using the needle excuse so he will get public support .I put it down to discrimination..total disgrace what he is doing shame on him hope no one in his family ever become homeless or down on there luck because they be a long time waiting for him to help them out..do people not realize a lot of people sleep on door steps because there afraid to stay in hostels were drugs and bullying goes on nightly..but I suppose his type wouldn’t that bother him..

  6. Evelyn
    7 December at 18:05

    I can completely understand why the business would employ these tactics be it to deter homeless people or just people using the space as a toilet ! I wouldn’t want a homeless person sleeping on my doorstep but it doesn’t mean that I don’t feel sorry for them or want to help . The problem however is that there is a homeless crisis and the government need to sort it out . This situation could be totally sorted if there were enough beds or accommodation for these poor people instead if having to sleep in a freezing cold doorway .

  7. Michelle
    7 December at 18:15

    This is sad to see especially in this cold weather. Then again, nobody should have to clean up used syringes, human faeces and blood. It’s not safe. I can’t blame businesses for trying to deter drug users from the area.

  8. Caroline
    7 December at 19:36

    Agree with Aine above just as likely to be mess from people on their way home to their nice warm beds after a heavy night in temple bar than the actions of a homeless person. More beds needed but in the meantime shame that business are installing these type of features that makes the plight of our rough sleepers even more difficult and distressing.

  9. Kevin
    7 December at 21:07

    Its not an anti-homeless sprinkler as your biased headline suggests. It is as much an anti-drunk sprinkler, but then that wouldn’t have got your the clicks.

    Disappointed to see this type of headline on this site.

  10. Gary
    7 December at 22:17

    Fair play to them. If you read their full Facebook comments I don’t think anyone could argue with them

  11. Jo
    7 December at 23:39

    THAT TITLE IS A JOKE!!

    Extremely unfair article, Dublin Ink are currently experiencing horrible online backlash from this. Their sprinklers aren’t “anti-homeless”, they are to stop drug abusers using their sheltered doorway. Cowman’s lane is a very unsafe area all round, ask any other business (including the Cafe across fro Dublin Ink who have defended the business).

    I urge the writer, Laoise, and other readers to also click this link to read the other side. Small businesses with no support from the Government have every right to protect themselves, their employees (currently eleven working there) and their clients.

    https://www.facebook.com/dublininktattoo/posts/10154709261391668?hc_location=ufi

  12. Laura
    8 December at 01:24

    Its not the business fault that there trying to protect there business if I had one I wouldn’t want that at the step but I also wouldn’t like to see someone sleeping rough the problem isn’t with the homeless or the business owner the problem is the government we need to start looking after the people we have in Ireland and stop letting other people in I know I’m going to get racist comments but I’m not people are coming over to Ireland getting clothing rent and other grants instead of given people from other backgrounds the chance of a better life in Ireland start given Irish people a better life help them get back on there feet. I’m not saying don’t let the other nationalitys in let them in if they can contribute to Ireland a bit like Australia we need to start looking after the people that we have

  13. Gavin
    8 December at 07:31

    Totally agree with the business, this isn’t about them. This is the government choosing to ignore the housing problem and pushing the problem some one else. There is absolutely no reason, none at all that people should be homeless. The government could fix this easy, everyone knows this it’s just not a priority and there’s no votes in it.

  14. KT Keane
    8 December at 08:33

    Blaming homeless persons or drug users is simply blaming the victim. Few people choose to be homeless. The lack of affordable housing is the reason for the surge in homelessness. Stop paying Billions to world banks and invest just a small amount in social and affordable housing.

  15. Dermot
    8 December at 09:52

    Very disappointed with such bias-soaked spin to produce a click-bait headline. The fact that, in the article itself, Dublin Ink staff are quoted as saying it’s to deter drug use, doesn’t stop Ms Neylon from persisting with the “Anti-Homeless” angle. I genuinely thought The Dublin Inquirer was a breath of hard-fought fresh air in Dublin/Irish journalism. This is an unfortunate step backwards in that quest.

  16. Patrick M Kilpatrick
    8 December at 12:12

    listen you title of the article is very misleading. secondly this a shop that had staff held hostage by a man with a blood filled seringe. jesus christ do your info before writing a piece like this

  17. dave
    8 December at 12:53

    I’m surprised there are no designers/architects engaging with the Council to experiment with simple shelter systems that could be unlocked at night automatically. At the very least a simple flat ‘plank’ +hinge against a wall could act as a basic roof in many spots at night. And perhaps as with Alan Bennett ‘Lady in the Van’ approach if businesses could keep an eye on just one ‘amenable’ homeless person who resides near them. The problem here is that there seems to be some illusion that homeless will go away. It won’t. Best to engage with it creatively for all concerned.

  18. Trish
    8 December at 14:23

    Being homeless does not give one the right to defecate or leave behind syringes, blood and garbage on someone else’s property. There is a major problem in Dublin and you’re shaming the shop owners. Go after the politicians, who continually turn a blind eye. These people go to work and pay their taxes and you expect them to clean up these type of messes on a daily basis??? Dublin Ink needs to ensure safety and cleanliness at their establishment or they will go out of business. This article is wrong in every matter….Laoise Neylon what are you doing to help these homeless, as you sit in your warm comfortable office while writing this article?

  19. Lois Kapila
    8 December at 14:45

    @Trish: Hi Trish, thanks for your comment. We do considerable coverage of all aspects of the homelessness crisis and the local government response, in particular. I don’t think the article suggests that Dublin Ink should be expected to clean up syringes every day; it sets out the different sides of the story, including the challenges Dublin Ink has faced in great detail and the challenges that those who are homeless face in what can be a hostile city, as well as the wider context of supervised injection centres, a lack of public toilets, and the shortage of beds for rough sleepers.

  20. rob
    8 December at 16:57

    Hi, I read your site and really like your journalism. However, on this occasion I think that the headline you are using is inaccurate and disingenuous. They are not anti-homeless sprinklers, they are sprinklers used to deter drug users and anti-social behaviour. I’m a big fan of DI, but this is wrong and panders to an approach that until now was refreshingly absent from the site.

    thanks Rob

  21. Nunya
    8 December at 17:09

    It’s not an anti-homeless sprinkler, it’s to stop junkies from shooting up outside their shop. They’re protecting their property, they shouldn’t have to clean up blood, shit and god knows what else every morning. People are so quick to judge before knowing the whole story.

  22. Lois Kapila
    8 December at 19:16

    @rob: Hi Rob, thanks for your comment. I’m sorry you think the headline is disingenuous. It, and the comments in the article, are based on what our reporter was told in conversation and over email when reporting the story. We honestly tried to be fair in the story, to give all sides, and to put it in the wider context. Best, Lo

  23. rob
    8 December at 22:56

    Thanks for responding Laoise. It’s not the article I take issue with, it’s fair and balanced as you say. However, the headline is wildly inaccurate and needs to be looked at. Sorry, but this is a big issue for me as I’d rather not see DI going down a route where you are using misleading headlines to get extra eyeballs/clicks. If this is the case, I would withdraw my support for you.

  24. Gareth
    8 December at 23:12

    I agree with the comments above. The article is reasonably balanced but the title is very inaccurate and it is provocative – you guys should be well aware of this. Everybody knows its all about titles nowadays as many don’t bother to read on before they jump all over it.

    Not good guys. Especially since you have had every chance since you published the article to edit the title. Nobody seems to be able to rise above clickbait online these days.

  25. dublinin
    8 December at 23:17

    @rob: Hi Rob, we have no intention of going down the route of clickbait, I assure you. I don’t actually think the headline is inaccurate. In an email to us, Dublin Ink said that “Unless the government deals with the problems that are overwhelmingly obvious in our city aka drug addiction and homelessness this is the only way we can protect ourselves.” They shared 14 photographs with us to illustrate what they have to deal with and six of them had homeless people or sleeping bags in them. I feel the article reflects that, and that this is a complex issue. Best, Lois

  26. rob
    8 December at 23:50

    So if that is the email / quote from Dublin Ink, why not use a more balanced headline like:

    ‘Tatoo shop installs sprinklers to protect staff from drug use and homelessness’

    Surely that be more reflective of what they actually said to you?

    If you feel this is a complex issue, then why is just one part of that issue represented in the headline?

    This is a very emotive issue and the way that you are focusing on one element in your headline is very misleading. I expected much better from DI to be honest.

  27. rob
    9 December at 11:40

    So no more replies from DI about this misleading headline?

  28. Colm O'Regan
    9 December at 13:57

    Hi, I think you should edit the headline to say: IN TEMPLE BAR, A TATTOO PARLOUR TURNS ON SPRINKLER TO DETER ROUGH-SLEEPERS, INTRAVENOUS DRUG-USE ON THEIR DOORSTEP

    The article is balanced. You’ve made the effort to interview both sides, and obviously a couple of times.

    I don’t think you need to be clickbaiting like this with the headline. I’ve subscribed to you just recently because I want to pay for the type of journalism that avoids this.

    I understand the need to get attention to the site, to get off the ground but I disagree with the headline, Having said that the headline is not untrue, it’s just not all the truth. All the best, Colm

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