Homeless at Christmas - families and thousands of children living in emergency accomodation

4 Dec 2019

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Charities working to alleviate the homeless crisis have expressed concern at the latest headcount of people living without a place to call home this Christmas. Over 10,500 men women and children continue to live in emergency accommodation, 3,826 of them children, according to Department of Housing figures. It’s an increase of 117 people in emergency accommodation since September, including 1,709  families.

ICTU has been working closely with its affiliates and housing activists, putting pressure on the government for action, and through the Raise the Roof Campaign. General Secretary Patricia King said "it is a scandal that families and working men and women have been priced out of the housing market, and often face excessive rents or eviction". The General Secretary called for an increase in social housing and more urgency about building affordable homes.

Wayne Stanley, for the Simon Communities, said that the Government must take action to ensure that the thousands facing into Christmas in homelessness and those living with housing insecurity are given hope.

The Simon Communities spokesman said “at this stage, the Government must seriously look at revising the targets for social housing included in the Rebuilding Ireland programme, and act to improve levels of availability of suitable and secure accommodation for those currently experiencing homelessness.

As we face into Christmas, we must not allow ourselves to become immune to the continuing worsening of the housing and homelessness crisis. We need to remember that this homelessness and housing crisis is not a normal situation, and should not be seen as acceptable on any level.”

Focus Ireland CEO Pat Dennigan said many families are bracing themselves for dealing with harrowing new realities as they face into their first Christmas homeless. He said: “There’s now over 10,500 people homeless and it is heart-breaking to see nearly 4,000 of these are children. Many of these families had their own home last year and will now be spending Christmas with their children stuck in a cramped hotel room or other emergency accommodation. Many others are facing a second or third Christmas without a home. Hotel rooms – and homeless hubs – are no places for children to be growing up. This is wrong and it must end.”

Mr Dennigan added: “It’s particularly shocking that we are now seeing babies being born into homelessness.  Being homeless causes terrible trauma to any family or individual but it is hurting children the most. We are seeing this through our own work supporting these families. Babies are living in tiny hotel rooms where they don’t even have enough room to learn how to crawl properly.”

Focus Ireland has called on the four new TDs entering the Dáil to commit to calling on the Government to put in place a specific family homelessness strategy and to also set a cast-iron deadline which means that no family or individual would be homeless for more than six months. Pat Dennigan said Focus Ireland would be in contact with the four successful candidates to follow up on these issues.