Sister Stanislaus Kennedy: 'This festive season, help us to help the homeless find their way back home'
We all think about our home at Christmas. How will we celebrate this special time of year with our family and friends?
It's the one time of year people living away always make that special journey home to spend Christmas with their loved ones.
It's hard to imagine as you read this that there are many parents actually dreading Christmas as they are homeless.
Sadly, this is true for nearly 10,000 people who are homeless. It is really shocking when you realise that nearly 4,000 of these are children who do not have a place to call home as they are homeless.
One mother told me how she can't wait for the festive period to be over. She said: "I hate having to spend another day seeing my two young children homeless and stuck living in one little hotel room for the past eight months. It breaks my heart." The harsh reality is that as you read this at least three families lost their home today. More single people will also become homeless.
I have never seen it so bad. These families live under terrible stress and it's the children who suffer the most.
It breaks my heart to know some of these children have been born into homelessness. Some of them will spend their first Christmas with their family forced to live in one little room together. They are our children too, and we have a duty as a society to provide a safe home for them.
We have a duty to protect the childhoods of these children and to make sure they do not suffer from being homeless for long periods of time.
Focus Ireland's Family Team work hard to support families in this situation, in partnership with the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, and the support includes specific childcare workers. Each family has a case manager who assesses their needs, provides support and works towards helping them to secure a home.
While the crisis is still deepening, the situation would be much worse without the lifeline services and more than 1,100 homes provided by Focus Ireland.
It is heartening to hear that we have supported well over 350 families to secure a home and escape homelessness so far this year.
We rely heavily on donations from the public to ensure we are able to carry out the full extent of this life-changing work. While Focus Ireland does receive State funding, we have to raise 50pc of our budget to ensure our front-line staff are always able to be there when people need help.
We have been running an urgent Christmas appeal with a hard-hitting campaign that highlights nearly 4,000 children are homeless nationwide. We really do depend on donations now more than ever to raise funds so our services can cope with the constantly rising demand. I am asking people to please give what they can afford to support our urgent Christmas appeal.
One family which is homeless and living in hotel emergency accommodation feature in our Christmas appeal. The mother, Fiona, wrote a letter about how the family are struggling but our help has made a big difference. She said: "Sometimes I lie awake at night and I can't cope. I can't believe we are still in this situation. But I know I can talk to our case manager at any time for a shoulder to cry on."
To me this shows the real value of our work. Our staff are there to help people in their darkest hour. To keep them going. To provide vital support and also hope. To remind them this will pass. They will find a way home. To donate please go to www.focusireland.ie or phone 1850 204 205.