Homeless, bedless and outside a Garda station at 10.30pm

Desperate hotel search sees mother, father and two young children run out of options

Cheryl Barnewell with her children Clayton  (9) and Rocco (23 months), who ended up having to sleep overnight in their car,  photographed in Finglas. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Cheryl Barnewell with her children Clayton (9) and Rocco (23 months), who ended up having to sleep overnight in their car, photographed in Finglas. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Late on Tuesday night Clayton Concannon (9) was scrolling on a phone, searching for a hotel room for the night.

“We were sitting in the car outside Finglas Garda station at about half ten,” says his mother, Cheryl Barnewell (26). “He was going though lists of hotels, asking , ‘Did you try this one? Did you try that one?’.”

By that stage Clayton, his brother Rocco (23 months) and their parents, Cheryl Barnewell, a hairdresser, and Glen Concannon, a security guard, were out of options.

They were one of 12 families, including more than 30 children, who were told on Tuesday to go to Garda stations as there was no emergency accommodation available.

Calling hotels

Cheryl had spent the day calling hotels and B&Bs looking for a hotel room. At 4pm, Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) had advised her to contact Focus Ireland.

The charity began calling hotels, but by 8pm it too had been unable to get the young family a room.

“They told me: ‘You’re going to have to present at Finglas Garda station’. I rang DRHE again and I told them. The woman took my details, said she’d record it on our file. I told her ‘I’m going to the press,’ and she said: ‘To be honest I think that’s what needs to be done’.”

The Finglas family has been homeless since October. The house they had rented for nine years was put up for sale. Their landlord, says Cheryl, gave them adequate notice but they were unable to find anywhere before they had to leave.

In November they were offered a house, sourced by Dublin City Council, on the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme in the private rented sector. They turned it down because, she says, they would be taken off the council’s housing waiting list.

‘Not risking that’

“The landlord could come along again and legally give us notice to leave again. I’m not risking that again. That’s not what we signed up for when we applied for social housing. We were accepted on that list and we’re not giving up on it.”

After they presented at Finglas Garda station and were told they could not sleep in a cell but could in the foyer, they sat in their car and called the Inner City Helping Homeless charity, while Clayton kept looking for hotels.

At ICHH’s offices they tried more hotels, giving up at about 2am, when mattresses were offered.

“I lay down that night and I just sobbed and sobbed,” says Cheryl. The family have been placed in a hotel until Monday.

Asked what he misses about having a home, Clayton answers simply: “Cooking our own dinner, playing with my friends, not being tossed around the place. Being calm.”