New people have slept rough on the streets of Dublin as the coronavirus lockdown hits, an aid worker said.
They sheltered in hedges, shop doorways, between the columns of court buildings and underneath bins, an eye witness said.
The Inner City Helping Homeless organisation gave out hot drinks, sweets, crisps and toiletries, volunteer Padraig Drummond added.
It has suggested a fifth of the people it helps have contracted the virus.
The infection has proved challenging for the homeless, with shelters managing with restrictions around social distancing.
Mr Drummond said: “We reached an average of around 50 people tonight.”
He said their only shelters were sleeping bags.
Mr Drummond added: “That is regular, this is night on night this is happening, for the duration of the lockdown.”
The volunteers wore protective equipment in an effort to shield themselves against the virus as they handed out hot drinks from a van.
Extra personal protective equipment has recently been donated to the organisation.
They have also helped to clean people’s tents.
Mr Drummond said they were giving out sanitation products.
“We have from age 18 up to 70 living on the streets at the moment.
“There are some long-terms and there are others we came across, a few new people on the streets and I have never seen them before.”
Some homeless charities have challenged official figures suggesting the number of rough sleepers in Ireland’s capital is down to its lowest level for decades.
The Dublin Outreach team is on the street from 7am to 1am, working in partnership with the Dublin Region Homeless Executive to find suitable accommodation for people who are rough sleeping during Covid-19, the Dublin Simon Community said.
It added: “Face-to-face contact is being prioritised for these people as we work to secure rolling beds in appropriate accommodation where they will be safe and supported throughout this crisis.
“The soup-run service is now being provided each night by the Dublin Outreach team to reduce risk for clients and volunteers.”
One of our teams that were out last night focused on washing people's hands and assisting in tent hygiene.
The other team focused on practical supports like food and toiletries.
We will request copies of the recorded calls via FOI should there be denial about bed availability https://t.co/VvYp2skNfR
— ICHHDUBLIN (@ICHHDUBLIN) April 21, 2020
Dublin Simon Community is working closely with Safetynet, which is leading the Covid-19 testing of individuals across all homeless services.
They said: “In the event that a person on the street began to display symptoms, the Dublin Outreach team would contact Safetynet and lead the patient to a self-isolation unit as directed.
“The Dublin Simon Community Step-Up Step-Down unit, which we run in conjunction with Safetynet, has increased its bed count during Covid-19 to provide medical support to 20 more homeless patients.
“The expansion of the unit will also mean that 36 beds are available in acute hospitals for those in need due to Covid-19.
“Our management team are meeting remotely each day and are in regular contact with the Health Service Executive (HSE), Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), Department of Housing, Safetynet and other agencies.”
The HSE and DRHE have been contacted for comment.