herald

Saturday 21 September 2019

Over 3,700 children homeless at beginning of the new school year

Eoghan Murphy said the situation remains a ‘huge challenge’
Eoghan Murphy said the situation remains a ‘huge challenge’

More than 3,700 children across the country are starting the new school year without a home as the homeless crisis rises to "deeply disheartening" proportions.

Official figures show that 10,275 adults and children accessed emergency accommodation in July - a rise of 4pc compared to last year.

In July, 103 more children were listed as homeless, increasing to a total of 3,778.

The number of homeless adults stayed at 6,497, while the figures of homeless families stood at 1,721 - a fall of 3pc from last July.

Responding to the figures, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said the situation remains a "huge challenge".

"There are fewer families in emergency accommodation today than this time last year," he said.

Response

"Of course, there shouldn't be any, but the fact that there are less, despite continuing high levels of presentations each month, speaks to the huge response from NGOs, the DRHE, local authorities and the Government."

Barnardos described the number of homeless children as "shamefully high".

"We are disappointed at the increase in the number of children experiencing homelessness in July, adding over another one hundred children to the thousands who remained in cramped emergency accommodation all summer long," said Barnardos chief executive Suzanne Connolly.

"The start of the school year will, I hope, provide some relief to those children. Every month children remain in unsuitable living conditions will have an impact on their physical development and emotional state - with long-term repercussions.

"I strongly urge the Government to redouble their efforts to ensure that the trauma of homelessness is not inflicted on more families."

Responding to the figures, Fr Peter McVerry accused the Government of "normalising" child homelessness.

"To flourish in school, children need stable and familiar homes to provide a cornerstone for their lives, not chaotic and ad-hoc housing arrangements where they are growing up in confined spaces," he said.

"Child homelessness has now become normalised in Ireland, but it should be a source of immense shame."

Housing charity Depaul's chief executive David Carroll said that starting a new school term is daunting enough for children without the added stresses and stigma that comes with being homeless.

"We need to offer children every chance to excel within their education and residing in hotels and B&Bs can, and will, severely hinder their prospects within education and further in to their lives," he said.

Homeless and addiction charity Merchants Quay Ireland described the latest homeless figures as "deeply disheartening".

"It is shocking and concerning to see one quarter of single adults who are accessing emergency accommodation forced to do so for more than two years," said CEO Paula Byrne.

"If we are to truly address this crisis, a greater effort must be made to support single people, particularly those with addiction or mental health difficulties."

Priority

The Simon Communities added that addressing social and affordable housing must be a top priority for politicians once the Dail returns.

Spokesman Wayne Stanley said: "If those in housing exclusion and homelessness are to weather the economic difficulties that lie ahead, we need to continue to increase the housing infrastructure that will provide affordable homes.

"More than three years after the launch of Rebuilding Ireland, we would ask the minister to look again at the allocation levels of social housing to those in long-term homelessness."

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