At least 17 pregnant women forced to live rough in tents, cars, and squats in Dublin
At least 17 pregnant women are currently homeless in Dublin - some living in tents, squats and in backseats of cars, the Herald can reveal.
Social workers believe the figure is "just the tip of the iceberg" and far more women are being forced to live on the streets or in emergency accommodation while going through pregnancy.
Women referred to as the "hidden homeless" are desperately seeking accommodation and support during their pregnancies but, due to a lack of State funding, support agencies have been forced to turn them away in their dozens.
The referral list for Anchora, a Dublin City Centre refuge for pregnant women, stood at 17 at the end of last month.
Shockingly, the centre has just four beds to accommodate the increasing number of women who find themselves pregnant and homeless.
Anchora spokesperson Mary McCarthy said they are "turning away a huge amount" of women every week.
"The situation is really dire, it's scandalous actually and I don't think the public are aware of it," Ms McCarthy said.
The agency said referrals to its service almost trebled in the past three years, and it expects more than 50 women to be referred to its Pearse Street centre before the end of the year.
It is also believed that some social workers are seeing up to five women a week who have nowhere to live during their pregnancy.
There is an average of around 1,400 homeless people seeking emergency accommodation every night with a quarter of these being women.
Senior social worker at the National Maternity Hospital on Hollis Street, Ciara McKenna, said the current homeless crisis is the worst she has seen.
"I have been a social worker for nearly 15 years and this is the worst I've ever seen it. Every day there are referrals.
"Sometimes women will come in with domestic violence issues but won't say they are homeless straight away because they are ashamed," Ms McKenna told the Herald.
Astonishingly, some of the women Ms McKenna sees are forced to go through their pregnancies while living in the backseat of a car, in squalid inner city squats or in tents pitched in green spaces around the capital.
Others are slightly more lucky and are able to get beds in a homeless shelter.
Ms McKenna said the majority of homeless women who come to the hospital are Irish, but there are also a significant number of foreign nationals.
Living rough presents serious difficulties for pregnant women and can lead to huge risks in bringing a pregnancy to full-term.
Ms McKenna said she has encountered cases where landlords have evicted women from their accommodation during their pregnancies.
"We have people coming to us who never thought they would be looking for help.
"People who were self-reliant and now can't believe they are sitting in front of a social worker," she said.
Independent Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath organised a presentation in Leinster House last week by Anchora, which was previously called Life Pregnancy Care Ireland, but said he was disappointed by the lack of Government TDs in attendance.