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09th Aug 2018

Seven homeless children and mother spend night sleeping on metal chairs in Tallaght Garda Station

Kate Demolder

“This is what this country has succumbed to.”

A photo of five children sleeping on the chairs of a Tallaght Garda Station waiting room has gone viral on Thursday morning as the city’s growing homelessness problem is thrust into the spotlight once more.

Five children in school uniforms, aged from one to 11, are photographed by their mother lying across rows of metal chairs without blankets after being advised by Gardaí to seek shelter there.

Another two children are understood to be sleeping in the hallway, out of sight.

The mother involved had been applying to emergency accommodation and she was told to self-accommodate but could not do so.

Anthony Flynn, chief executive of Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH), was one of those who reposted pictures on Twitter alongside the comment: “This is what this country has succumbed to, this is how homeless services are treating our children.

“I’m in utter shock, seven children sleep in one city Garda Station and eight families referred to stations as nowhere to send them.”

Brian McLoughlin, Head of Communications for the ICHH, spoke to JOE about the photo which has brought serious attention to the crisis ravaging the city.

“So a family, a mother and seven children, slept in a Garda station in Tallaght last night. The mother presented the family to the Garda station, the Gardaí, in fairness to them, tried all the emergency numbers – and they even tried to source a hotel but couldn’t do so.

“So they stayed there overnight, Gardaí gave them breakfast in the morning and they went over to South Dublin County Council Housing Department first thing this morning.

“The ICHH put two families up ourselves last night. We’re already spent double our budget halfway through this year in comparison to what we spent last year. The Gardaí actually released a statement three months ago – saying families shouldn’t be sent to Garda stations as they’re not equipped or trained to work with them,” he continued.

“They told us that ‘our people aren’t trained for this, we shouldn’t have this situation’ but there’s no alternative.”

“They name-checked the ICHH specifically in this case but in this instance nothing was available.

“We’re getting inundated with families, more so over the past 18 months – there should be no situation where a child is sleeping in a Garda Station. But sometimes there is just no other alternative.

“We’ve had roundtable discussions with Focus Ireland, the Director for Housing First, Garda Representatives which have ended in us (ICHH representatives) saying ‘we’re not government funded, we’re volunteers, yet when we have a family who comes to us we will pull out a card even, if it costs us €500 for a family.

“How come funded organisations can’t do the same? Bigger organisations should do the same,” McLoughlin concluded.

According to the Department of Housing, 9,872 people were in emergency accommodation during the week of 18-24 June, an increase of 26 people compared with the previous month.

The figure includes 6,048 adults and 3,824 children, with a rise of 28 adults and two fewer children accessing emergency accommodation compared with May.

Source: Department of Housing

Dublin showed the biggest increase in homelessness over Murphy’s first year in office, with 1,266 more people in emergency accommodation than in June 2017.

Speaking about the latest monthly figures, the Minister said any increase in the number of people in emergency accommodation was “unwelcome”, but said it was “good to see a decrease” in the number of homeless children.

He added: “The increase from May to June 2018 was 26. For the corresponding period in 2017, we saw an increase of 242 adults and dependents so the change is much better when compared to last year.”

Main image via Twitter/@AnthonyICHH