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Children suffer effects of housing crisis

By Ann Marie Foley - 20 May, 2014

barnardos slide-housing-crisisNowhere to play, living among strangers, and witnessing violence and drug abuse is the reality of life for children from more than 100 families in Ireland who have been forced into homelessness and so-called ‘temporary’ accommodation such as B&Bs.

“We work with families who have ended up living in a hotel or B&Bs for up to a year. Children are witnessing violence and drug use in some of these places. They’re scared because they’re living in cramped conditions surrounded by adults they don’t know. There’s no place to play or do their homework,” Emma Jane Nulty, a Barnardos’ Project Leader, said.

“Many of them have to change school which means they lose friends. It’s terrifying for children and for parents because they just don’t know what’s going to happen next. They’re very uncertain about the future.”

Barnardos said that in some cases the housing issues were so severe they raised child welfare issues; either because of unsuitable and unsafe accommodation or because of the impact on parents.

At the launch of The Housing Crisis publication on Monday, Barnardos called on the Government to act quickly to address the issue of rising rents, discrimination in the private rental sector, inappropriateness of emergency accommodation and the serious lack of social housing.

This report comes just after a warning by Fr Peter McVerry (See CatholicIreland.net 19 May 2014) that Ireland is faced with a “tsunami of homelessness”.

Fergus Finlay, CEO, Barnardos stated that in Ireland we are witnessing the real life consequences of a number of austerity policies.

“The lack of investment in social housing in recent years, cuts to rent supplement and the rising cost of renting in the private market are creating a perfect storm for homelessness,” he said.

FergusFinlayCEBarnardos“We should have been able to predict and prevent this, indeed plenty of people have been shouting about it for a long time. It’s about time Government started really listening.”

Meanwhile, children are losing precious time they will never get back in places that make them scared, lonely and stressed, he said: “It isn’t good enough and it needs to stop.”

Barnardos stated that recent Government announcements of increased investment in social housing were welcome but that other measures, including the Housing Assistance Payment and improving family friendly emergency accommodation must be looked at urgently.

The report has stated that:
-More than 180 adults with dependent children are living in hotel accommodation, they comprise more than 1,350 individuals, the majority of them children (Dublin Region Homeless Executive).
-The number of families with children in emergency accommodation is increasing steadily. In November 2013, there were 128 adults with children in emergency accommodation (Dublin Region Homeless Executive).
-Rough sleeping in Dublin city centre has risen by 200% since January, and is up three fold on this time last year (Dublin Simon Community).

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