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‘It's unacceptable that homeless children are being born into BnBs’

“It’s totally out of control now – it’s an absolute crisis.” The Founder of Focus Ireland says the situation is getting worse.

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

SISTER STANISLAUS KENNEDY has been advocating for human rights and social issues for most of her life – and she’s still outraged at the poverty situation in Ireland and the homeless crisis, which she’s called ‘scandalous’.

Sister Stan, who is a member of the Sisters of Charity and founded Focus Ireland, has said that it is possible to fix the homeless situation if the political will is there.

In an interview with Ruairi McKiernan on the Love and Courage podcast, the 77-year-old nun, who backed same-sex marriage, she spoke about the importance of spirituality, no matter your religion, the poverty gap in Ireland and the impact the homeless crisis is having on children.

Homelessness

Homeless figures in Ireland continue to reach record highs.

Last Friday the Department of Housing released figures showing that there were 1,302 families with 2,708 children staying in emergency accommodation in Ireland.

“You have the awful situation of homelessness,” Sister Stan said. “That has increased year upon year upon year upon year for the past 15 years. And now it is totally out of control. Now it is an absolute crisis.”

I was talking to a person yesterday who is doing some work with people in B&Bs. And she works in a bed and breakfast in the city centre where there are 90 families, in 90 rooms. 90 families!

She said that the plans to solve the homeless crisis don’t seem to be working. The Minister for Housing (and Fine Gael leadership candidate) Simon Coveney has pledged to end housing the homeless in hotels by July – which right now, doesn’t look likely.

She said that there can be a sense of complacency around homelessness because there’s the sense that ‘there in hotel rooms, they’re grand’.

But the lack of facilities, the concerns around the impact it has on children’s wellbeing, are all important considerations that are left behind with that kind of rhetoric:

…the children are going to be damaged. Can you believe, some children are born into that? I know of women who were in B&Bs – they went from there to go into the hospital to have their baby, and brought their baby back to the B&B.
So the children are born into it, and reared into it. That is scandalous, in this day and age in Ireland. But that’s the kind of divisions you have in Ireland. Now, it’s hardly talked about.

Sister Stan also criticised the uneven spread of wealth, and the uneven effect austerity had on people in Ireland.

“There are, in Ireland, many people who don’t know there was a recession at all. It had no effect on them. Many people – it’s not just the top people who are well off, and got richer. But there are many people that it didn’t affect at all, at all.

“And then, there are other people, like the low-paid worker, the unemployed, the poor people, the one-parent families, all those – they have suffered enormously. And the poverty that exists in some parts of our country is incredible.”

She said that the level of poverty in Ireland isn’t discussed openly, and that there’s a lack of political will to fix issues related to it.

Well, problems can be fixed. I think there’s a lot of bureaucracy. There’s huge bureaucracy that prevents things happening.

“It is a fact that…well, I think politicians can overrule that. If they want to. Of course they can.”

You can listen to the interview in full here.

Read: Sister Stan will be voting Yes in the same-sex marriage referendum

Read: Minister: No, we don’t throw people out of asylum centres with just a sleeping bag

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