Wednesday 17 July 2019

Homeless crisis scandal sees dozens of families referred to garda stations

Housing minister Eoghan Murphy
Housing minister Eoghan Murphy

Dozens of homeless families are being referred to garda stations late at night as they seek emergency accommodation.

Families were advised to attend garda stations by Focus Ireland on at least 112 occasions in recent months.

The situation was highlighted by the case of Margaret Cash who spent Wednesday night in Tallaght Garda Station with six of her children.

As Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy came under fire from the opposition for the incident, his department sought to shift the blame to the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE).

The DRHE, meanwhile, claimed it was not its policy to refer families to garda stations.

However, it outlined an arrangement with Focus Ireland in which, in exceptional circumstances, families are advised to go to gardai.

The charity's advocacy manager Roughan MacNamara said: "This isn't a Focus Ireland policy: the State is directing people towards garda stations as they are a place of safety.

"It is not acceptable and we are not happy to do that but it is the only thing available in certain situations."

State agencies including gardai, the DRHE and the Department of Housing as well as Focus Ireland were last night unable to say how many times homeless families had been referred to garda stations in recent years.


Numbers released by the charity earlier this year show that families were advised to go to garda stations 46 times in April and 47 times in May.

The DRHE said that the 46 instances in April related to 30 individual families. It could not confirm if they all attended a garda station.

It said that nine requests for accommodation were received from gardai that month with eight families receiving a placement on the night and one refusing an offer.

It couldn't provide additional detail on the May figures.

The DRHE did confirm that families were referred to garda stations by Focus Ireland on 19 occasions last month.

Fifteen of the cases in July involved families who refused accommodation that they had been offered, and four of them didn't have entitlement to social housing in the Dublin region.

Fianna Fail housing spokesman Darragh O'Brien last night said that families being referred to garda stations is "an all too regular occurrence" and he claimed Fine Gael's housing policies are "denying these children's basic human rights".

Sinn Fein's Eoin O'Broin called on Mr Murphy to make an immediate statement on what additional actions he's going to take to address the "ever worsening crisis".

He also raised concern that the peak holiday season and upcoming visit by Pope Francis will lead to fewer hotel rooms being available to homeless families.

A spokesperson for the minister said Mr Murphy had spoken to the DRHE and they confirmed they are "reviewing" the process for those seeking emergency accommodation late at night. He defended the Government's record on tackling homelessness, insisting that it was a priority.

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