Saturday 1 October 2016

Pregnant homeless women forced to live in cars, tents and squats

Published 17/07/2015 | 02:30

Fidelma Healy Eames
Fidelma Healy Eames

At least 17 pregnant women are homeless in Dublin – some living in tents, squats and in the back seats of cars, the Irish Independent can reveal.

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Social workers believe the figure is “just the tip of the iceberg” and far more women are being forced to live on the streets or in emergency accommodation while going through pregnancy.

Women referred to as the “hidden homeless” are desperately seeking accommodation and support during their pregnancies. But, due to a lack of State funding, support agencies say they have been forced to turn them away in their dozens.

The referral list for Anchora, a Dublin city centre refuge for pregnant women, stood at 17 at the end of last month.

Shockingly, the centre has just four beds to accommodate the increasing number of women who find themselves pregnant and homeless.

Anchora spokeswoman Mary McCarthy said the centre was “turning away a huge amount” of women every week.

“The situation is really dire; it’s scandalous actually and I don’t think the public are aware of it,” Ms McCarthy said.

The agency said referrals to its service had almost trebled in the past three years and it expected more than 50 women to be referred to its Pearse Street centre before the end of the year.

There is an average of around 1,400 homeless people seeking emergency accommodation every night with a quarter of these being women.

Independent Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath organised a presentation by Anchora, which was previously called Life Pregnancy Care Ireland, in Leinster House last week.

But he said that he was disappointed by the lack of Government TDs in attendance.

Galway Senator Fidelma Healy Eames, who attended the meeting, said the homeless crisis was hitting women and children the hardest.

“We hear of horrendous cases in Greece where families who cannot feed their children are handing them into orphanages. This situation is not that far removed,” Ms Healy Eames said.

Senior social worker at the National Maternity Hospital on Holles Street, Ciara McKenna, said the homeless crisis was the worst she had encountered.

“I have been a social worker for nearly 15 years and this is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” Ms McKenna said.

Astonishingly, some of the women Ms McKenna sees are forced to go through their pregnancies while living in the back seats of a car, in squalid inner city squats or in tents pitched in green spaces around the capital.

Ms McKenna said the majority of homeless women who came to the hospital were Irish but there were also a significant number of foreign nationals. “We have people coming to us who never thought they would be looking for help,” she said.

“People who were self-reliant and now can’t believe they are sitting in front of a social worker.”

A report released yesterday said that in the first five months of this year the number of adults in emergency accommodation increased by 154 with families increasing by 41pc from 401 to 565.

The number of children in emergency accommodation rose by 346, representing a 40pc increase.

Niamh Randall, national spokesperson for the Simon Communities, said that these latest figures were further

evidence of the housing system crisis.

“These latest emergency accommodation figures from May highlight the growing movement of more and more people from housing into homelessness.

“The numbers are truly devastating: during the week of May 18-24 there was a total of 3,134 adults, 565 families and 1,211 children in emergency accommodation nationwide. Such a reality is completely unacceptable,” she said.

Irish Independent

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