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Dublin: 0°C Friday 22 January 2021

'He was crying because he was so cold, so miserable': TD cries as she tells story of young homeless man

TDs spent their last morning in the Dáil before the Christmas break discussing the homeless crisis.

THE TOPIC HAS dominated political and public debate over the last year, so it was fitting today that TDs spent their last morning in the Dáil before the Christmas break discussing the homeless crisis.

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy told TDs the government wants ultimately to get families into homes and that it is important that it does not “turn away from uncomfortable truths”.

“This is on me in terms of my responsibility,” he said. He called on both his colleagues and those on the opposition benches never to use this issue “for political ends”.

“We have a responsibility as politicans and leaders in Irish society to put our best efforts together,” he told them. Although he acknowledged that family hubs are only an emergency short-term solution, he said they do offer more comfort and stability to the families living there.

There are now 12 hubs in Dublin, Kildare and Limerick, housing 300 families. On a recent visit with the Taoiseach to one of these hubs, Murphy said he had met “two fantastic kids” who were bright and energetic “as kids should be”. They were excited about Christmas and about Santa coming.

“We were giving those assurances that Santa was going to come and that he knew where they were and did get their letters,” the Minister said.

We want them to feel there’s nothing wrong until we get them into secure homes.

Murphy said he knows new homes are the answer to this problem, but this will take time, and until then, he said the State will treat families “with the utmost care” until it can provide them with a forever home.

‘Inflicting misery’

Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster made a particularly emotional contribution, as she spoke of how children living in hotels cannot even do something as simple as invite their friends over to play.

“You’re inflicting misery,” she told the minister.

Munster also spoke of a young homeless man she and her daughter had passed on O’Connell Street last week.

“It was bitter cold last Friday morning, absolutely icy cold wind and he was sitting with no shelter on O’Connell Street, a teenager he appeared to be. He appeared to have what was a very lightweight blanket over his shoulders,” Munster said.

She gave her daughter some change and told her to go back and give him money so he could get soup and a sandwich.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

When my daughter came back, she said: “Mam, he was crying.” He was crying because he was so cold, so miserable, so alone and he felt that nobody gave a damn about him, Minister. So I want you over Christmas to think about those children and every single person waiting to be housed in this State.

‘An economic refugee’

Fianna Fáil’s Pat Casey told the Dáil that he has had a number of homeless families staying at his hotel in Glendalough, Co Wicklow, in recent years. It is a rural hotel, 50 kilometres from Dublin, and the children in these families all go to schools in the capital.

He described how the families arrive late in the afternoon or early evening after the parents have collected the kids.

“They arrive tired and anxious, a little embarrassed about arriving not as a tourist, but as an economic refugee.”

He said the next morning, they make the journey back to Dublin to drop the children at school, they contact the council and are told there is no accommodation for them, but are provided with a list of hotels they can ring.

“They begin the process of ringing hotels in Dublin and then further afield and again reluctantly book into my hotel and arrange transportation.”

Casey said he has had Dublin families staying in his hotel for three to five days in a row.

Each day the same process, each day the same humiliation, each day the same struggle.

‘Scrooge of the year’

In his contribution People Before Profit’s Mick Barry took aim at the vulture funds, nominating Lugus Capital for “Ireland’s Scrooge of the year 2017″.

This fund is the new owner of Leeside apartments in Cork, where almost 30 families face eviction.

“What a scandal – threatening to put young children out on the side of the road in order to maximise their profits.”

There will be a march through the city tomorrow, he said, to protest against the evictions.

Fine Gael’s Maria Bailey, speaking at the end of the discussion, said politicians should “work together to be solution-focused rather than look for media headlines.”

She invited those on the opposition benches to bring “constructive, solid solutions” to the government.

Sparse chamber

Of 158 TDs, 19 were present in the Dáil chamber today to speak about children affected by the homeless crisis.

The chair of Inner City Helping Homeless Anthony Flynn criticised this as an “indictment of the government”.

The group contrasted the growing rate of children living in emergency accommodation with the number of TDs in attendance.

“This figure is both frustrating and extremely alarming,” the group said.

- With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha

Read: ‘It won’t end homelessness but it’ll make a difference’: Appeal to donate price of drink this Christmas>

Read: ‘Homelessness is not normal’: Effort to kickstart national movement begins with laughter and song outside the Dáil>

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