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The difficulties of being 13, homeless and having nowhere to do your homework

A letter to homeless services provides a stark insight into the many problems facing homeless families.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: Shutterstock/TinnaPong

A LETTER SENT on behalf of a homeless teenage boy by his school’s welfare officer about the state of his living conditions provides a sharp example of the problems facing the homeless in Dublin.

On 15 February this year, the Home School Community Liaison officer for a north Dublin DEIS school sent a letter to Dublin homeless services on behalf of a student and his family.

The letter is in support of a social housing application by the mother of the student, who is 13 and a first year in the school.

The officer expresses serious concerns over the student’s accommodation and the impact it is having on his studies.

The letter provides an insight into the problems facing the nation’s homeless children, and effect it can have on their school and social lives.

The officer begins the letter by outlining how the boy’s mother approached the school recently to inform them of his accommodation situation.

The officer states that the mother has been living in a hotel room with her children for the past six months.

The family lost their home as the landlord had raised the rent on the property and the mother couldn’t afford to pay it anymore.

The officer states that the teenage boy is:

…a polite and focused boy. He has nowhere private to study in the hotel room like his… mother (also a student).

The officer has seen the room in which the family are living, and lays out a number of issues with it. These include:

  • The entire family living between one room
  • Beds used as seats for eating and studying as there are no tables and chairs
  • No cooking facilities whatsoever
  • One wardrobe for the entire family over spilling with clothes
  • Noise from other rooms disturbing the family
  • A late nightclub on weekends at the hotel which disturbs the family

Equality

The officer goes onto write that the term DEIS school stands for “Delivering Equality of Opportunity in School”. They then state:

On observing factors both within and outside of the home, I could not say that [boy's name] or his… were being given an equality of opportunity compared to other children who would not have to share a bedroom with their mother.

The officer says that the entire family (including the mother) are committed to pursuing their education.

It would be a huge disservice to this family if their learning was impeded due to their living conditions which in my opinion will happen if they live in a single room as a family much longer.

They go on to say that despite the difficulties facing the family, the boy has an excellent school attendance record “of 92 out of 93 days so far this academic year”.

The officer concludes the letter by appealing to the “better nature” of the homeless services managers in asking them to source social housing for the family within the area, so that they would be close to their schools.

They state that the school supports the School Completion Programme, which aims to promote the attendance, participation and retention of pupils in DEIS schools.

The officer concludes:

In so writing this letter of the support of this family, I believe that the school’s looking to see through the three main aims of the Schools Completion Programme.

Latest figures show that the number of children living in emergency accommodation across Ireland has tripled in the past two years.

There were 2,470 homeless children in emergency accommodation across Ireland in October, compared to 798 in October 2014.

Read: Homeless Ireland 2016 series

Read: ‘Don’t let us die’: Homeless men’s fears as makeshift camp on south Dublin green 

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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