Homeless crisis: ‘We’ll have children on the streets by Christmas’

A campaign is aiming to put pressure on Government to solve a worsening problem

Last year’s census revealed there were 1,000 homeless children in Ireland, “but that figure now is 2,985”. Photograph: iStock

Last year’s census revealed there were 1,000 homeless children in Ireland, “but that figure now is 2,985”. Photograph: iStock

 

After three homeless children were given sleeping bags and told to go to a Garda station, staff at Inner City Helping Homeless “felt we had to do something”, says its head of advocacy, Dave Nugent.

That happened three weeks ago. “Just giving them sleeping bags is wrong,” he said.

Last year’s census revealed there were 1,000 homeless children in Ireland, “but that figure now is 2,985, according to the Department of Housing. Most are in Dublin”, said Mr Nugent. “We’ll have children [sleeping] on the streets by Christmas,” he said.

For this reason, Inner City Helping Homeless decided that August 28th should be National Day Against Child Homelessness in Ireland.

The hope is to raise awareness of the problem of child homelessness “to get people to share the message, to have them contact local representatives on the issue and to volunteer locally to help homeless children,” Mr Nugent said.

The agency has set up the campaigns #MyNameIs and @MyNameCampaign on social media.

Videos on the platforms feature children such as nine-year-old Declan, whose brother has special needs. He says he worries about finding a rental home for his brother and appeals to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to “Please, please do something to help these homeless kids”.

Eight-year-old Liam has a home but points out that almost 3,000 other children do not. He holds up a series of placards, one of which reads: “Children should not have to worry about having no home.”

Rosie, whose age is not given, says she “would be very scared if she lost her home” as she “would have nowhere to go”.

Stable home

Teacher Dermot Looney says he knows “the importance of a stable home for kids”.

Carly Bailey of the Social Democrats describes the emergency accommodation in which many families currently find themselves as “modern-day tenements.”

Mr Nugent said: “we’ve had report after report after report” on homelessness, but to no avail. “A sustained social campaign” was needed, he added. “We’re a social movement, not a political movement. We want to engage the Irish people in a new sustained social campaign” to end child homelessness.

“We want to engage the teacher unions and others in schools where there are children who get no breakfast, no dinner and who can’t do homework because they have no homes.”

The sustained focus should be “not just on the Government and politicians but also on the permanent government: on the civil servants”, he said. “We hope to extend this social movement beyond Dublin to Cork, Limerick, Galway. There’s an inherent decency in the Irish people, a kindness, a willingness to help. They don’t want an Ireland without a safety net.

“We began running a soup kitchen four years ago, but through more engagement with families we came across some [people] who have work but cannot find accommodation and others who have found temporary accommodation but can’t find schools in the area to take their children,” Mr Nugent said.