Saturday 16 November 2019

'Families with children aged between 2 and 5 sleeping rough in cars' - Homeless charity

The homeless man was discovered in Dawson Lane
The homeless man was discovered in Dawson Lane

David Kearns

Children as young as two are sleeping rough in Dublin, says Focus Ireland, who recorded thirteen families in the capital living in cars and tents last summer.

In an unpublished report, the homelessness support group said that it had prevented another 73 families sleeping rough by housing them in emergency accommodation between June and September.

“What this document was trying to do was tale a story about how our systems have evolved to be much more effective,” said Michael Allen, Director of Advocacy at Focus Ireland.

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“We’ve seen a gradually growth in the number of families sleeping rough on the streets in Dublin, and we’ve been documenting this so we can increase our response.

“From March to September, we were able to confirm that there were 13 families sleeping rough.”

According to the unpublished report, between June and September 13 families with children were verified as having slept in cars or tents by the Housing First rough-sleeper outreach team, which is run jointly by Focus Ireland and the Peter McVerry Trust.   

Last June, according to the report, the outreach team found three families sleeping rough in cars.

In August, the team found 13 families “who were at immediate risk of rough sleeping".

Focus Ireland said that most of the families its outreach team came across during this period had very young children, some of them no more than babies.

"Five of these five families were sleeping rough in cars. The children were aged between 2 and 5," the group said.

Four of these families are now in emergency accommodation, and the other is no longer in contact with the service.

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“The main point of this report was that we were able to house more than 70 families deemed to be at risk of sleeping rough,” said Mr Allen.

“That our worked with the Homeless Directory has let us create a better system. When we started, if we came across a family on the streets it would take us several hours to get them into emergency accommodation.

“Now our team has the authority to instantly respond if they come across a family at risk of sleeping rough.”

The vast majority of families mentioned in the unpublished report lost their homes in the private-rented sector.

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Welcoming the announcement by Environment Minister Alan Kelly that 22 modular units would be in place by December to help tackle the capital’s homelessness problem, Mr Allen said that the debate around emergency accommodation was overshadowing the need to solve the root cause of homelessness.

“Previously emergency accommodation was often not appropriate for the needs of the families using it

“The modular housing project is going to provide a better standard so we welcome that but what we’re also saying is that there’s no amount of around emergency accommodation that will end homelessness.

“We shouldn’t be focusing on the debate around it but rather on the cause of homelessness. We need to prevent families from losing their homes, or once they have, we need a system that gets them back into mainstream housing as quickly as possible.”

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