herald

Wednesday 12 December 2018

'I sat crying all night as kids slept in garda station' - Mum

The photo of the children sleeping at Tallaght Garda Station that shocked the nation
The photo of the children sleeping at Tallaght Garda Station that shocked the nation

A Tallaght mother has told how she "cried all night" as she watched six of her young children sleeping in a garda station.

The plight of Margaret Cash (28) and six of her children - Johnny (11), Tommy (10), Miley (7), Jim (4), Rocky (2) and Andy (1) - touched the hearts of the nation when photographs emerged of the children sleeping on chairs in a waiting area with no bedding or blankets.

Yesterday, the mother-of- seven went to the homeless section of South Dublin County Council (SDCC) to try again to secure accommodation - but to no avail.

At lunchtime, the family then made their way to the offices of the Inner City Helping The Homeless offices on Amiens Street, which secured accommodation for Ms Cash and her children until Monday.

Tears

Ms Cash told the Herald how she spent all of Wednesday night in tears at Tallaght Garda Station.

"I've no words to even describe it. I didn't even sleep, I just stayed awake and watched the kids," she said.

"It was the last straw for me. I just sat there crying all night.

"They were sleeping on hard chairs before blankets were brought for them.

"Until you're in a situation like that you'd never know what it's like.

"It was so horrible seeing your children having to go through that - it's overwhelming."

Ms Cash said she was advised to go to her local garda station after Focus Ireland could not secure suitable accommodation for her family.

"You ring the council every morning and they give you a list of hotels to ring, but you can't get anywhere with them," she added.

"They all tell you they're full or don't have anywhere big enough for your family.

"I've been homeless for a year now," said the mum-of-seven. She also has a daughter Rebecca (9) who stayed with a family friend on the night in question .

"Most nights [Focus Ireland] get you into a hostel, but you'd be back out the door at 9am the next morning, walking the streets with seven kids until 8.30 or 9pm.

"On Wednesday night they couldn't find anywhere and told us go to the local police station."

Ms Cash said the charity offered her family accommodation in Co Meath, but it would have been impossible to get to it so late at night.

Focus Ireland advocacy manager Roughan Mac Namara said the fact that some families had nowhere to sleep at night except a garda station was "totally unacceptable".

"Focus Ireland is working hard every day with the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive to support families and help them when they become homeless," he said.

"While [Wednesday] night was exceptional, it was part of an escalating crisis for families that Focus Ireland has been warning the Government about for over two years."

Ms Cash and her family are on SDCC's housing waiting list. An SDCC spokes- person said families were assessed on a case-by-case basis at its homeless clinic.

If homeless priority is granted families would either be accommodated in a homeless hub or granted self-accommodation.

The spokesperson added: "All efforts are made to ensure families have accommodation on a temporary basis until more permanent arrangements can be put in place."

The Herald first highlighted the issue in May when a 10-year-old girl had to sleep in Ballyfermot Garda Station.

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