Homeless family with terminally ill child 'had to sleep in car for three weeks'
A homeless family with a terminally ill child had to sleep in their car for three weeks before they got emergency accommodation in a hotel, according to children's charity Barnardos.
The charity said the housing crisis was now widespread in Ireland, with thousands of children living in overcrowded, unsuitable and sometimes unsafe homes.
It said it was seeing cases of three generations of a family - sometimes consisting of eight or more people - all living together in a two-bedroom home.
Launching a new report, 'The Hidden Housing Crisis', Barnardos said its workers had witnessed first-hand the problems caused by a lack of good quality accommodation.
It cited the case of a Cork family consisting of two parents, their three children, one of whom was terminally ill, who were forced to sleep in their car for three weeks as they waited for emergency accommodation.
The charity said many families believed that as soon as they became homeless, they would be given emergency accommodation, but this was often not so.
In another example, a Barnardos worker visited a family and saw a rat crawling across the kitchen counter of their home.
"The family have nowhere else to go and are too scared of a rent increase or eviction to complain to their landlord," reported Melinda Hughes, a project worker in Limerick.
June Tinsley, head of advocacy at Barnardos, explained that problems did not just exist for those in emergency accommodation.
"In addition to the 1,600 children living in that environment, we must add many thousands more who are living in overcrowded, unsuitable and sometimes unsafe homes, unable to move or demand better because they have no other options.
"While there have been some positive developments in housing policy in the past year, the reality is their impact is yet to be felt. The first job of any new government must be to take immediate action," she said.
Among the charity's recommendations are to link rents to the Consumer Price Index, to raise rent supplement rates and to provide modular homes immediately.