A woman who slept in a Dublin garda station with six of her children on Wednesday night says she has been provided with temporary accommodation until next Monday.
A photograph of five of Margaret Cash's children asleep on chairs in Tallaght Garda station, after they were unable to find suitable emergency accommodation, prompted outrage on Thursday, with a campaigner against homeless saying it highlighted "turmoil" in State services.
Ms Cash (28) said she and six of her seven children - aged between one and 11 - went to the station after emergency homeless services were unable to find beds for them.
Originally from Ballycragh in Tallaght, Ms Cash said she became homeless last September after the house she was renting was repossessed. The family have been living in emergency accommodation ever since.
She said she was directed to go to the garda station by Focus Ireland and told to present as homeless after a suitable place for them to stay in could not be found. She said it was the second time the family had to sleep in a garda station.
"I didn't sleep, the kids eventually fell asleep around 1am. It was so hard," she told The Irish Times.
“People coming in and out and the doors opening and closing. The baby was screaming crying, he had no way of turning around, he was stuck in the buggy. It was horrible. I’ve lost myself, I can’t even speak. I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.”
She added: “I’ve been 11 years on the housing list, they told me before I’ll be another four or five years waiting for a house.”
On Thursday evening Ms Cash said her family had been provided with temporary accommodation by the Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) group. They now have somewhere to stay until Monday next.
The most recent official figures showed there were some 9,900 homeless people across the State in June, including some 3,824 children.
The Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) said an “unprecedented” 10 families presented out of hours seeking emergency accommodation on Wednesday.
“We were notified by the Family Homeless Action Team that they were actively engaged with 10 families, who were unable to source their own accommodation,” the DRHE said in a statement.
The executive's director Eileen Gleeson said told RTE's News at One that of the 10 families, five were placed in emergency accommodation, two returned to their original region, which was outside Dublin, one refused the offer of emergency accommodation and two did not seek further assistance.
‘Stayed in touch’
Regarding the Cash family, she said: “I’m assuming they were one of the families that did not seek further assistance. If they had stayed in touch we could have helped.”
Ms Gleeson said the executive is working hard to facilitate every request for emergency accommodation. “We have contingency plans, we have contingency beds for crisis situations. If people refuse it, that’s their choice, but there’s no good reason to refuse it,” she said.
Focus Ireland said directing homeless families to Garda stations is “the only thing available” when there is no emergency accommodation available.
“This isn’t a Focus Ireland policy, the State is directing people towards Garda stations as they are a place of safety,” a Focus Ireland spokesman said. “It is not acceptable and we are not happy to do that but it is the only thing available in certain situations.”
The Garda said “a young mother and her six children aged from 11 years to one year presented at Tallaght Garda station during the night as they had nowhere to go.”
“The family were cared for during the night by the members working and received a hot breakfast this morning in Tallaght Garda station.”
Solidarity-People Before Profit TD for Dublin South West Paul Murphy said the image of the family sleeping in the garda station should "haunt this Government".
“Scenes like this are being played out across the country every night of the week whether it’s families in Garda stations or tents on beaches,” he said. “It demonstrates decisively the absolute failure of the government’s housing policy.”
He added that the Government had privatised social housing “by outsourcing it to developers and private landlords” who were unable to provide housing on the scale needed.
Fianna Fáil spokesman on housing Darragh O'Brien TD said the scenario in which the Cash family found themselves had become "all too regular" an occurrence.
“As this crisis has worsened under Fine Gael’s leadership, more and more families have been left with no choice but to present themselves to a garda station to get rest for a night because they have nowhere else to go,” he said.
“To have no stable accommodation or nowhere else to go represents a colossal failure of the State.”
Anthony Flynn, chief executive of aid agency Inner City Helping Homeless, said: "This is what this country has succumbed to. This is how homeless services are treating our children.
Mr Flynn told The Irish Times that up to eight families may have spent the night in Garda stations across the city on Wednesday.
He said the situation showed emergency housing services in Dublin were now “in turmoil”, with 48 families spending the night in Garda stations last month and 47 the month before last.