Half of families sleeping in Garda stations are Travellers or Romanian

Homeless crisis having ‘disproportionate’ impact on Travelling community

Margaret Cash and six of her children - aged between one and 11 - stayed at Tallaght Garda station after emergency homeless services were unable to find beds for them.

 

Half of the homeless families referred to the Garda when no emergency overnight accommodation is available are Romanian nationals or from the Traveller community, new figures show.

The homeless charity Focus Ireland told 30 families to go to Garda stations in April, several on more than one night; in all the charity referred families on 46 occasions that month. Nine of the families were Romanian nationals; 15 were Irish, including eight from the Travelling community; and three were from outside the European Union.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive figures were obtained following a Freedom of Information request from The Irish Times.

The executive said it received nine calls from An Garda Síochána in April about accommodation for families who had come to stations. The homeless service said eight families received emergency placements and one family refused an offer of accommodation.

Focus Ireland has previously said that some families who are referred to the Garda instead sleep rough in cars.

In May Focus Ireland told 29 families to seek overnight shelter in Garda stations. The charity referred families to Garda stations 47 times that month. Eighteen of the families were Irish, including four from the Travelling community; 10 were Romanian; and one came from outside the EU.

Last week Margaret Cash (28) and six of her children slept at Tallaght Garda station, as homeless services were unable to secure suitable accommodation for the family for the night. Photographs of the children sleeping on seats at the station were widely shared on social media, provoking sharp criticism over the spiralling homelessness crisis.

The crisis was having a disproportionate impact on the Travelling community, according to the Irish Traveller Movement. “We know Travellers are discriminated against in the private rental market,” a spokeswoman said, adding that many families present as homeless after they are evicted.

The number of Travellers living in private rental accommodation has in turn risen “due to the failure of local authorities to provide Traveller-specific accommodation” such as halting sites, the spokeswoman said.

Last year local authorities failed to spend €4.1 million in funding allocated for Traveller housing; nine councils failed to draw down any of their available funds.

The 2017 annual Traveller count reported 11,116 Traveller households in Ireland; 1,700 Traveller families were living in overcrowded, dangerous or inadequate housing in 2017, a 66 per cent increase since 2013, when the figure was 1,024.