More than 1,000 children now homeless in Dublin
Group says families with children presenting to rough sleeper services for the first time
Mike Allen, director of advocacy with Focus Ireland, said some families had reported being turned away by local authorities when they presented as homeless. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
The number of homeless children in Dublin has surpassed 1,000 for the first time since the homelessness crisis began last year.
The latest figures from the Dublin Region Homeless Executive show, in the week of May 18th-24th, there were 1,034 children – in 490 families – in emergency accommodation.
This compares with 970 children (442 families) in emergency hotel-type accommodation in April. Of the 1,034 children homeless, 303 were in single-parent families, while 364 were in 187 families headed by couples. The families include 677 parents.
The figures come as it emerged yesterday families with children were presenting to rough sleeper services in Dublin for the first time.
The Housing First intake team, which works with rough sleepers in the capital, began seeing families in March.
Adrian Quinn, the Housing First project leader, said his team had had to intervene to avert the prospect of families sleeping in cars or elsewhere.
Between March and April, 13 families with children had presented to the service.
“Thankfully, none had had to sleep out or in their cars,” Mr Quinn said. “We have intervened and got them a place for the night. We have had a lot of reports from people concerned about families sleeping in cars. We go and check that out or families come to us, or we may get families referred to us.
“We are all familiar with the increasing number of families and children coming into homelessness,” Mr Quinn added, “ but the fact that they are moving into the sphere of rough-sleeping is very worrying.”
There was also a concern that families facing the prospect of rough sleeping were not presenting to services for fear the children would be taken into care.
“Our services comes with all the protective back-up of social services. People know if we arrive and there are children involved, if there is nowhere to place them, they are looking at going to the nearest Garda station and social services being called. So it is not unthinkable that they would not want to engage with us,” said Mr Quinn.
Mike Allen, director of advocacy with Focus Ireland – which runs the Housing First project with the Peter McVerry Trust – said some families had reported being turned away by local authorities when they presented as homeless. Some say they had been told there was no available emergency accommodation or they had not been assessed as homeless.
There seemed to be a lack of clarity as to what the obligations of local authorities were were to families with children facing an immediate lack of shelter, he said..
The charity is calling on Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly to “intervene urgently” to make it clear to local authorities that “any family which is assessed as being homeless will be provided with emergency shelter” to “ensure that young children do not end up sleeping rough on our streets”.
In a letter to Mr Kelly, Focus Ireland says: “We believe it is essential for you, as the Minister, to intervene at this point to set out what minimum standard must be maintained, that no family with children that is assessed as homeless should be left without emergency accommodation.”
A spokesman for the Department of the Environment said it continued to “engage bilaterally on an ongoing basis with a range stakeholders, service providers and NGOs engaged in the response to homelessness, including Focus Ireland”.