Christmas campaign to highlight homelessness launched

Mother (26) recalls time living with children in hotel room but says they should not have to

Focus Ireland services manager John O’Haire with Kelly-Anne Byrne and her children Kimberley (10) and Kayleigh (5), at the launch of ‘A Home For Christmas’, exhibition.

Kimberly will remember living in a hotel room, having no separate space to play or do her homework as her family tried to deal with homelessness.

Her sister Kayleigh was only a baby so she doesn’t have much memory of it but their mother Kelly-Anne Byrne remembers it well.

“No child should ever have to face and go through homelessness, children are our future, their voices matter, ” she said.

Now a Focus Ireland ambassador – the charity helped the family exit homelessness in 2016 – Ms Byrne was in Dublin on Tuesday to help launch the Focus Ireland’s “A Home for Christmas exhibition”, as part of its Christmas appeal. Some 2,500 children will be homeless this Christmas, the organisation says.


The exhibition features artwork created by children from families who are homeless. The children were all asked to create a piece which depicts what a home would mean to them this Christmas. .

The aim of the exhibition is to highlight that for many children a home is something they can only dream about.

“Living without a home is a very lonely and stressful experience, you’re trying your best for the kids but it’s very hard to see them not having things they should have like a place to play, their own bed and somewhere to do their homework,” said Ms Byrne.

Kayleigh (5), daughter of Kelly-Anne Byrne, at the launch of the Focus Ireland ‘A Home For Christmas’, exhibition in Dublin.

Ms Byrne was just 26 years old and a mother to five children when she found herself living in emergency accommodation, a hotel room for the whole family.

“ Focus Ireland were so supportive during this time and provided vital services to help me and my children get out of that awful situation and ultimately find a home for our family”, she said.

According to the charity the number of families without a home is now rising again after dropping during lockdown due to the temporary ban on evictions and a short-term increase in access to housing.

‘Harsh realities’

John O’Haire, service manager at Focus Ireland said: “Our goal is that everyone, particularly children, can have a place they can truly call home. Whilst we helped 880 families to secure a home last year in partnership with the Government, there is still a huge demand for our services as the harsh realities and impact of Covid-19 are continuing to effect families all over Ireland.”

The ‘A Home for Christmas’ exhibition follows a campaign led by Focus Ireland’s Child Support Workers which launched earlier this month on World Children’s Day.

Children, who were homeless or had previously been homeless, were asked what they would say to the Government about their experience of homelessness and what needs to be done.

The charity developed the messages and artwork to produce the “Dear Government. Messages That Matter” booklet that was sent to every TD and Senator along with a letter outlining Focus Ireland’s new #FocusOnChildren campaign.

The exhibition takes place at 32 Wicklow Street, Dublin 2 until December 14th and those wishing to donate should go to

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist