Homeless ex-prisoner lives on roundabout

Dessie McClements.
Dessie McClements.

A homeless alcoholic, found living on a Limavady roundabout, warned there will be suicides - if authorities don’t put measures in place to accommodate prisoners on completion of their sentence.

Dessie McClements was convicted of disorderly behaviour at Derry Magistrate’s Court on Friday. Police discovered Mr. McClements “living on a roundabout.” He was released from Magilligan Prison on Thursday past but had no address to go to.

The court heard that “several” members of the public contacted police having seen Dessie sleeping on the roundabout. He had acquired a small table, a sleeping mattress and a sofa. His solicitor told District Judge McElholm there was no element of theft and the disorderly charge arose because her client “objected” to being woken by PSNI officers.

Speaking to the Journal after receiving a conditional discharge, Mr. McClements said: “Something has to be done for people coming out of prison. I’ve felt suicidal, I’ve nowhere to go and no one can help me. Someone is going to kill themselves if they have nowhere to go.”

During the hearing District Judge Barney McElholm spoke of the need to establish a halfway house to help people in similar situations.

“I’m glad the judge understood my situation,” said Dessie McClements “I’ve had to get sent back to prison in the past just to have some food and shelter.”

Mr McClements admitted to having broken a window in the past “just to get sent to prison,” and has just been released from a six week sentence on a theft charge. “The reason I stayed at the side of the road was because I wanted people to see me in case I was unwell. I have epilepsy and wanted people to be able to help me if I had an attack. There are good people out there and they showed that they care by phoning the police but I just had nowhere to go. It is no way to live.”

The Limavady man who admitted “serious problems” with alcohol said; “To be honest I know I’m a bit of a nuisance in the town but people know there is no badness in me. I just steal to eat or drink. I think of myself as a kind of Robin Hood living off the land only stealing to survive.

“I do make others suffer but I only act an eejit to eat and drink. I’m an alcoholic and I’m not well, mentally.” Mr. McClements approached the Journal on the steps of the courthouse and said: “You need to flag it up before someone kills themselves. The judge let me go today but now I’m stuck in Derry with no way to Limavady and no money to get there. I do have a benefits cheque to collect at the Limavady dole. There should be somewhere to go for people like me when they get out of prison when there is no room at hostels, what other choice do I have but to sleep rough? When I go into prison, the staff can’t be nicer, the prison officers are like my social workers, but my sentence was too short to qualify for help or courses on offer in jail. When the gate is open you are given some free phone numbers only and told to be on your way. “I don’t want to be a bad man.”