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'There's nowhere to have any form of normal life': The pressures facing Ireland's homeless children

The overall number of homeless children in the capital doubled in the past year – with 1,616 children now in emergency accommodation.

THERE’S NOWHERE TO have any form of a normal life, the longer that goes on the more potential it has to harm children.

Mike Allen, the director of advocacy for Focus Ireland, has been speaking about the problems experienced by children who are homeless in advance of a major meeting to tackle housing and homelessness later today at Trinity College, Dublin.

Simon Coveney, the newly-appointed housing minister, has said Ireland needs to build at least 25,000 housing units a year to meet the needs of the increasing number of families becoming homeless in Ireland.

The death of Jonathan Corrie, the homeless man who passed away in a doorway on Molesworth Street, close to Leinster House in 2014, sparked a national conversation about homelessness – but campaigners say the situation has not improved since then.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive reported earlier this year that the overall number of homeless children in the capital had doubled in the past year – with 1,616 children in emergency accommodation, compared to 803 in 2015.

games room wide - reduced Peter McVerry Trust's games room, part of their under 18 services. Source: Peter McVerry Trust

The problems facing homeless children 

“Homeless is a loaded word, anyone associated with it is automatically judged and often stereotyped. As a child it can have enormous negative impacts and that will be carried throughout their childhood and indeed into much later in life” the Peter McVerry Trust, which campaigns on homelessness and drug misuse, said.

“It is likely to affect every aspect of their development; from education, to the child’s mental and physical health, as well as their personal and social relationships.

Many children experience bullying as a consequence of homelessness.

Stigma

Allen, the Focus Ireland spokesperson, said children who suddenly become homeless experience a stark interruption of their normal life.

Families who find themselves homeless are often accommodated in hotels by local authorities as a temporary measure – but there are stigmas and pressures that go along with that, he said.

Other campaign groups have also expressed concern over the lack of cooking and laundry facilities in hotel rooms being used by homeless families.

rte-investigates-programme-390x285 Source: RTÉ

The realities of trying to live a normal family life in such circumstances were depicted in a hard-hitting RTÉ documentary at the start of the year which followed three families over a three-month period.

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Viewers tuning in were shocked by what they saw – and the issue again dominated public debate in the weeks just before the start of the election campaign.

Why do children end up homeless?

The vast majority of children who become homeless in Ireland are part of families – most of whom had been renting in the private sector before running into difficulty as a result of rising rents, unemployment, family breakdown or other issues.

Speaking the day after the broadcast of the ‘My Homeless Family’ documentary, the director of the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, Cathal Morgan, said that the number of families becoming homeless had stabilised in recent months – but that the supply of local authority houses was still at a low level.

31/3/2016. Housing Forum Conferences The Ballymun site of the recently completed rapid-build modular homes. Source: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

Later today, Minister Coveney will open the third annual housing policy conference which will focus on ‘Homelessness & Social Housing’ at Trinity.

Amongst other events on the programme, speakers will be contrasting Ireland’s experience with that of a number of other countries, including Austria, Denmark and Australia.

Read: The number of children in homeless accommodation in Dublin has DOUBLED in a year

Read: Life on the streets – how Dublin looks to a homeless photographer

About the author:

Roisin Nestor

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