Eviction ban: Gardaí say their stations ‘not a place of safety’ for homeless families

Homelessness campaigner condemns ‘nightmare’ as eviction ban lapses triggering notices for thousands

Eviction ban : Paul scott
The eviction ban has lapsed triggering notices for thousands. Image: Paul Scott

Garda stations are “not suitable locations” for homeless families from a health and safety perspective, the force has said, as charities fear the number of individuals entering homelessness will increase following the lifting of the eviction ban.

The ban on no-fault evictions lapsed at midnight last night with thousands of notices to quit issued to tenants now becoming live, while others will become effective in the months ahead.

“Contrary to some public commentary, under law, a Garda station is not a designated ‘place of safety’ for homeless families,” the Garda said in a statement following queries from The Irish Times about its discussions with homeless charities about responding to emergency situations.

In recent days, homeless charities said they had been requested by gardaí not to advise homeless families without emergency accommodation to attend Garda stations.


The charities said, while they understood the Garda’s position, which had been communicated to them at recent meetings, it was of concern given the worsening crisis and particularly the shortage of last-minute emergency accommodation for families.

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In response to queries on the matter, An Garda Síochána said in a statement it was “fully aware” that when a homeless family or person presents at a station, they are there as “a last resort and are experiencing immeasurable distress and trauma”.

“However, Garda stations have the potential to be a high risk environment for such families, particularly children, as they are operational stations that at any one time are dealing with prisoners, suspects, victims of crime, and people suffering from mental health issues.

“In addition, Garda stations have no facilities to accommodate homeless families and/or persons. As such, Garda stations are not suitable locations for homeless families from a health and safety perspective.”

The Garda said that under legislation, local authorities have a responsibility to provide housing for homeless individuals, while Tusla, the child and family agency, has responsibility under the Child Care Act 1992 to provide accommodation for homeless children or those in need of care.

“Contrary to some public commentary, under law, a Garda station is not a designated ‘place of safety’ for homeless families.

“From a legal perspective, section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991 outlines the power for members of An Garda Síochána to take a child to safety. This is the only legal context for the term and its use relates to a defined set of circumstances where there is an ‘immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of a child’, and that to await the making of an application for an emergency care order by Tusla would not be sufficient for the protection of the child from such immediate and serious risk.

“In such circumstances, where section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991 is invoked, the child must then be delivered into the custody of Tusla as soon as practicable.”

Garda managers were this week advised that families presenting to Garda stations should be provided with contact numbers for the relevant local authority and that assistance should be given, such as the use of telephone facilities, the Garda statement read.

“Where there are reasonable grounds to believe that there is an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of a child, members of An Garda Síochána may remove the child to safety. In such cases, the member must, as soon as practicable, deliver the child into the custody of Tusla.

“An Garda Síochána will treat any person(s) who may present at Garda stations in a caring and compassionate manner whilst providing any advice and/ or complying with any statutory functions.”


Charities have expressed concern that the number of people experiencing homelessness is going to increase significantly, following the expiration of the moratorium on evictions from Saturday.

Housing and homelessness campaigners and opposition politicians condemned the move, with Fr Peter McVerry describing it as a “nightmare”.

But Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said it was “the responsible move to make”, adding that continuing with the ban would have resulting in “more and more properties being lost and making a difficult situation worse”.

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The Government decided not to extend a ban on “no-fault” evictions beyond March 31st, having put the ban in place on October 30th last year. The measure prevented landlords from evicting people, even if they could be issued with a valid notice of termination. The decision to end the ban has been harshly criticised by opposition politicians and housing charities.

The latest data released by the Department of Housing on Friday showed the number of individuals accessing emergency accommodation in the State fell slightly – by 12 – in February to 11,742, compared with January. Campaigners said the drop showed the eviction ban was working in keeping people out of homelessness.

Numbers, however, continue to increase in Dublin and among single adults.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times