55% surge in children registered as homeless

Rates of child homelessness increased by 55% last year, despite government efforts to tackle the housing crisis, it has emerged, writes Evelyn Ring of the Irish Examiner.

The children’s charity Barnardos said children were the invisible victims of the housing crisis

Last December, there were 2,505 children registered as homeless across Ireland, compared to 1,616 during the same month in 2015, a 55% increase.

Over the same 12 month period, adult homelessness across the country rose by 28%, so child homelessness is growing at double this rate.

The Barnardos chief executive, Fergus Finlay, said homeless children suffered terribly.

“Imagine packing your bag and going with your family to present to the authorities as homeless,” he said.

Children became overwhelmed by the change in their lives and afraid of what their future contained.

The Barnardos head of advocacy, June Tinsley, said the housing crisis was escalating at a ferocious pace and the effect of homelessness on children was profound.

“It affects every aspect of their development: Mental and physical health, social and emotional development, their education, and their key relationships,” she said.

Barnardos has called for a redoubling of efforts to ensure families are moved out of hotel accommodation and into more stable and appropriate accommodation as soon as possible.

“Until we have a response that is adaptive, swift, and far-reaching, we will struggle to keep pace, and we will struggle to protect these children,” said Ms Tinsley.

A mother living in overcrowded private accommodation says her daughter, who is only nine years old, has to share a single bed with her.

“I had to move in here after my relationship broke down. It was advertised as a flat, but it’s a bedsit with only a single bed, a hot plate for cooking, and a small ensuite,” she said.

“Imagine having to share a single bed with your mother when you’re nine and having nowhere to play or do your homework except on the floor?”

The woman contacted Barnardos, and they helped her daughter understand the situation and build up her self-confidence.

“They’ve helped link her in with a local afterschool club. It’s early days yet, but I hope she returns to being a happy, sociable child. She’s only nine. She didn’t ask for this.”

Another child said she had not told any of her school friends that she was living in a hotel because they might tease her.

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