herald

Sunday 25 June 2017

Desperate mum told to 'try the garda station' as no beds could be found

Cheryl Barnewell and her young sons Clayton and Rocco. Photo: Arthur Carron
Cheryl Barnewell and her young sons Clayton and Rocco. Photo: Arthur Carron

A Dublin couple with two young children was among a dozen homeless families whose only alternative to sleeping rough was to seek refuge at a garda station due to the lack of emergency accommodation.

However, after making hundreds of phone calls to secure emergency shelter at hotels and B&Bs on Tuesday, the young family from Finglas was even turned away from spending the night in a garda cell.

They spent the night sleeping on the floor of a homelessness charity's office.

Hairdresser Cheryl Barnewell (26), her sons Clayton (9) and Rocco (23 months), and her partner, security guard Glen Concannon (26), said they were told by officials from Focus Ireland's Homeless Action Team (HAT) that the only option to ensure their safety was to present themselves at a garda station.

The team is contracted by Dublin City Council's Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) to assist homeless families in securing emergency accommodation.

Yet when the arrived at Finglas Garda Station, Ms Barnewell said a garda told her: "There's nothing we can do for you. You can't stay here."

Despite her willingness to spend the night in a cell as a last resort, Ms Barnewell said she was told even that was not an option.

Ms Barnewell spent Tuesday - as she does every day - ringing dozens of hotels and B&Bs as far afield as Co Kildare and Co Meath to find emergency accommodation for her family each night.

However, due to the seasonal influx of tourists and Saturday's Guns N' Roses concert at Slane Castle, every hotel is completely booked.

Ms Barnewell said she was able to get five nights' accommodation at a hotel in Ashbourne, but only after "raising hell" with DCC.

Focus Ireland director of advocacy Mike Allen confirmed the couple was among a dozen homeless families with children whom they told to seek accommodation at garda stations because nothing else was available.

"We were informed [by DRHE] the only option for them was to go to the guards," he told the Herald last night.

A spokeswoman for DRHE last night would only confirm that seven families were instructed, as per the DRHE protocol, to seek shelter at garda stations.

"The Dublin Region Homeless Executive are aware that families presented to garda stations last night," the spokeswoman said.

"There is a protocol in place whereby if accommodation cannot be sourced late at night, even when we have invoked our contingency capacity, families are brought by the Focus Ireland HAT team to garda stations to ensure safety for the families concerned."

Appalling

However, Mr Allen said that the situation is totally unacceptable.

"It's an appalling situation and one that shouldn't be allowed to arise," he said.

He added that he raised the issue with outgoing Taoiseach Enda Kenny two years ago.

"He said it wouldn't happen again yet here we are," he said.

"We looked as far as Drogheda [for accommodation] and that we'd pay for taxis ourselves to go to Drogheda or beyond."

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