Leo Varadkar's attitude to homelessness "breaks my heart", says activist Deborah Somorin 1 year ago

Leo Varadkar's attitude to homelessness "breaks my heart", says activist Deborah Somorin

"That's not the reality."

Activist Deborah Somorin has questioned comments made by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar about the average amount of time a child spends in emergency accommodation in Ireland.

Speaking previously on Ireland Unfiltered, Varadkar said the average time a child is spending in emergency accommodation was six months, but he did say there were exceptions to this figure.

According to recent figures from Focus Ireland, 65% of homeless families in the Dublin region have been in emergency accommodation for six months or more; more than 11% have been in emergency accommodation for two years or more.

Image via Focus Ireland (Source: Dublin Region Homeless Executive)

Somorin, the founder of Empower the Family, a charity set up to support young disadvantaged single parents in Ireland and help them to successfully complete university, was this week's guest on Ireland Unfiltered with Dion Fanning and rubbished the claims made by the Taoiseach during his appearance on the show.

You can read what she had to say below.

Dion: We had Leo Varadkar on this show and he was talking about homelessness and I was saying about children growing up in emergency accommodation and he said, well, the average time span any child spends in emergency accommodation now is six months.

Deborah: Well, we know that’s a lie.

Dion: Well, he said there are exceptions. But if you take him at his word, your experience of that, six months as an average time to be spending in emergency accommodation for a child is still a long time.

Deborah: Yesterday I met with someone who works in the government who told me a story about meeting someone who had been going for the system for two years. The mother was in college every day, going to college, all she had was her car. They were living in homeless accommodation for two years while she went to college. She was actually studying accountancy or business or something and that was all she had to make sure the kids went to school every day and she’d go off and study.

For me, when I hear things like that it just breaks my heart because I know, and [Varadkar knows] that’s not the reality, he knows. These kids have nobody else. They have nothing else. And if you’re the kids sitting at home, in emergency accomodation who’s been in there for longer than six months, who’s been in there for a year or two years and you’re watching him say it’s an exceptional basis and you know there’s so much more than you. That really, really breaks my heart because what those kids go through.

Even after I did the Late Late and I talked about night-time-only hostels for the first time, I got emails from kids that were 12, 13 who had spent Christmas in them and they were like, ‘Thank you so much for highlighting this, people didn’t know that these things existed’. And when I speak to these kids they just feel nobody cares.

And that’s the big thing for me with Empower the Family, focussing on disadvantaged single parents; this is a community that I have come from that feel left behind, that feel education is not for them, that feel they’re not wanted there, that feel ignored. And when you have a politician that is the leader of your country, that is supposed to represent everyone in your country, saying things like that, it’s so damaging - nevermind the damage that it does to the kids already being in emergency accommodation, I just think it’s damaging for them in terms of their self-worth of like ‘I actually don’t matter’, like this is actually... anyway so in terms of...

Dion: There’s no ‘anyway’, no, no that’s important, it’s important that you say that.

Deborah: I generally stay away from politics so I don’t know how you got me to do that!

Somorin also spoke about her experience of adapting to life in Ireland and how she didn't realise she was black until she moved to Naas, which you can read about here.

You can watch the interview in full below.


Ireland Unfiltered, brought to you in partnership with Carlsberg Unfiltered, will be available everywhere you get your podcasts and on YouTube every Tuesday.