Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 1°C
Tatyana Tomsickova/Alamy Stock Photo File photo of a young child beside a Chsitmas tree
Emergency Accommodation

'Children are afraid Santa won't find them': Homeless families face 'traumatic' Christmas

Over 2,500 children in Ireland are currently homeless.

THE GOVERNMENT HAS been asked to prioritise ending child homelessness as thousands of people face another Christmas period in emergency accommodation.

A spokesperson for Focus Ireland, an organisation that supports homeless people across the country, has said that being homeless “causes terrible trauma for anyone but it hurts children the most, and families now have the added stress of Covid-19″.

They told The Journal: “Unfortunately, we face another Christmas where children will be spending their first year in emergency accommodation.

“Next year needs to be the time the State really starts to deliver more social housing so we can begin to see significant progress for more families and children who are without a home.”

The spokesperson noted that, under the Housing for All strategy, the Government has committed to ending all homelessness by 2030.

“We are asking the Government to prioritise the ending of child homelessness,” they added.

According to statistics released by the Department of Housing last month, 8,830 individuals were listed as homeless in October, including over 2,500 children.

Nearly 800 families and 1,903 children are homeless in Dublin, with the majority of these people staying in private emergency accommodation such as hotels, hostels and other residential facilities.

There are currently 1,220 households living in housing provided by Focus Ireland. These households are made up of a mix of individuals and families. This includes 465 households in Dublin, 209 in Waterford and 187 in Limerick.

Meanwhile, about 120 single people and over 70 families will be availing of COPE Galway’s emergency accommodation services this Christmas, while 41 single people and 13 families will be in supported transitional accommodation.

A spokesperson for COPE Galway, a charity that supports people experiencing homelessness in the western county, told The Journal that Christmas is “an exceptionally difficult time for the men, women and children who are homeless”.

“It is especially difficult for families to be homeless at this time of year, where they are surrounded by talk and imagery of home, festivity, family and connection.

“Families have asked our staff for Christmas trees for the bed and breakfast bedrooms that will be their homes this Christmas, so that their families can have what most others have.

“Children have expressed anxieties that Santa might not know where to find them this year. No child should be without a home but sadly over 200 children will be accommodated by COPE Galway this Christmas.”

‘One of the greatest challenges’

When asked about the difficulties facing homeless people over the Christmas period and in general, a spokesperson for the Department of Housing said: “Homelessness, especially child homelessness, is one of the greatest challenges facing our country today and it is a key priority for the Government.”

The spokesperson noted that there have been “significant reductions in the number of children experiencing homelessness in recent years”, but added “the Minister and the Government know this is still far too high”.

The most recent monthly statistics, published last month about October, indicated that 1,082 families, with 2,513 associated children, were accessing emergency accommodation.

The spokesperson said this represents a fall of 39% since July 2018, when 1,778 families were recorded accessing emergency accommodation. However, they added that there “have been some recent increases in monthly homeless figures which are very concerning and that is why all efforts are being made to address this”.

The Government’s Housing for All plan was launched in September and aims to eradicate homelessness by 2030 – many opposition politicians have questioned whether or not this goal will be met.

A statement from the Department noted: “Under Housing for All, €4 billion in capital is being invested annually on social and affordable housing. This is the biggest such programme in the history of the State. There will be an increase in supply across all tenure types, with over 90,000 social homes, 36,000 affordable homes and 18,000 cost rental homes to be delivered by 2030.

“9,500 new build social homes will be delivered each year, on average, over the next five years. In 2022, 11,800 social homes will be delivered, including 9,000 new build homes. Also being put in place are the additional social, economic, health and family supports where these are needed. These measures combined will contribute to the eradication of homelessness by 2030.”

Support over Christmas

If a person finds themselves in need of emergency accommodation or other support over the Christmas period, they can contact Focus Ireland on 01 881 5900 or by emailing

People in need in Dublin can contact the Local Authority Assessment and Placement Service on 1800 707 707 or emailing

There is no change to Focus Ireland’s services operating over Christmas. All services will be running (in line with Covid restrictions) including the Coffee Shop in Dublin’s Temple Bar, which will be open on Christmas Day. Due to the pandemic, the Coffee Shop has moved to providing take-away food only.

COPE Galway’s emergency accommodation services will all continue to operate on a 24/7 basis throughout the Christmas period, including the Cold Weather Response at Osterley Lodge, Fairgreen Hostel and Corrib Haven Family Hub. The charity’s Families and Day Centre will also remain operational during Christmas and the New Year.

COPE Galway’s out of hours freephone helpline – 1800 788 887 – will operate between 7pm and 11pm daily.

Dublin region

The DRHE – on behalf of the four Dublin local authorities, Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council, South Dublin County Council and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council – is the lead agency with responsibility for responding to homelessness across the capital.

The organisation works with several NGOs and private companies to run dozens of hostels and other accommodation facilities for homeless people in the Dublin region.

9369 Rough sleeper A rough sleeper pictured in Dublin city in August (file photo)

Throughout the Christmas period, the DRHE will continue to provide emergency accommodation and support services to people in need. All residential accommodation for families and individuals is operated on a continuous 24-hour basis, with meals and shower facilities provided on site.

The free homeless helpline 1800 707 707 will be operational from 10am to 10pm almost every day throughout the Christmas period for those who need access to emergency accommodation in the Dublin Region.

Reduced operating hours will apply on Christmas Day, St Stephen’s Day and New Year’s Day – namely 1pm to 10pm. The Dublin Street Outreach Service can be contacted on 01 872 0185 from 7am to 1am.

There will be a pop-up mobile kitchen outside the Mansion House in Dublin city on Christmas Day from 10am to 1pm for a traditional takeaway meal.

A spokesperson said the DRHE, in partnership with Dublin Simon Outreach and the Peter McVerry Trust (PMVT) intake team, are “assertively working on the streets offering accommodation to all rough sleepers”, adding that this service “operates 365 days a year”.

The outreach teams also ensure that people who are sleeping rough are “linked with other appropriate health services such as addiction and mental health services to prevent further rough sleeping”, they added.

A full list of the service available in the Dublin region over the Christmas and New Year period can be read here.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel