Numbers of babies being born into homelessness rising, charity says

Focus Ireland calls for ‘cast iron’ guarantee that no family will be homeless for more than six months

Sr Stan made an urgent appeal for donations as she launched Focus Ireland’s Christmas appeal with the charity’s youngest supporter, 3-week old Amélie Conney, and mother her Aoife who works for the charity.  Photograph: Leon Farrell / Photocall Ireland

Sr Stan made an urgent appeal for donations as she launched Focus Ireland’s Christmas appeal with the charity’s youngest supporter, 3-week old Amélie Conney, and mother her Aoife who works for the charity. Photograph: Leon Farrell / Photocall Ireland

 

More than 140 children have been born into homeless families in Dublin this year, the charity Focus Ireland said as it called on the Government to guarantee that nobody would be without a home in the State for more than six months.

The call was made on Sunday in Dublin as the charity’s founder Sr Stanislaus Kennedy announced its Christmas appeal, which it hopes can raise €1.5 million to assist Focus Ireland’s new family centre.

Sr Stan said the charity supports 1,215 children in 580 families in Dublin and 143 of these children were born into families who were homeless this year.

“That is shocking,” she said, adding that “it is appalling” and “fundamentally wrong” that children were growing up in hotel rooms with no space to learn to walk.

“And I think this is depriving those children of the basic human right - the right to privacy, the right to dignity and the right to respect,” she said.

The charity’s family centre, due to open by the end of the year, would be a place for homeless families to come to during the day so that they would not have to roam the streets, Sr Stan said.

She said “it will be an opportunity for families to sit down, to study, to do the normal things” such as cooking and washing. There will also be support staff to work with families to help them find a way out of homelessness.

‘Get their act together’

Sr Stan called on the Government to quickly “get their act together and build houses”.

“There is no other solution - a permanent home for people, that’s what they need. And it’s happening drip by drip by drip but it just isn’t good enough,” she said. “There has to be a radical approach to this and treat it as a very serious crisis.”

Roughan MacNamara, the charity’s director of advocacy, said there was an immediate need for a strategy dealing with family homelessness because most services are directed at adults “and children are traipsed around to these, which are not appropriate for children”.

Noting two reports on housing compiled by Oireachtas committtees and published last week, one of which called for a cap to be put on the time people should spend in homelessness, Mr MacNamara said Focus Ireland wanted a “cast iron” guarantee of six months being the maximum.

Such a target is unlikely to be set after a pledge by then minister for housing Simon Coveney in March 2017, that the Government would end its reliance on hotels and B&Bs as long-term accommodation for homeless families by July of that year, was never met. Hotels and B&Bs remain a staple for accommodating homeless families and individuals.

The Department of Housing has been contacted for its response.