Update: Government defends homelessness record as FF call for housing budget

Update: 1.54pm: Fianna Fáil say the budget needs to be a housing budget as Government TDs and Ministers have been out this morning to defend their record when it comes to dealing with the homelessness crisis.

Simon Harris says the housing crisis is the biggest scar left by the financial crash, and he wants to know the full details of what happened with Margaret Cash and her children.

"No mother takes her children to a garda station lightly.

"So we're going to continue as a government to absolutely prioritise increase the stock of social housing and continue providing funding to the Dublin Region Homeless Executive and others to make sure emergency accommodation can be provided in the interim."

While the Housing Minister is away on holidays, other TDs say he is regularly in touch about the situation.

Fianna Fáil has criticised the government's approach to building homes, with TD Pat Casey saying there needs to be a ramp-up in social housing construction.

"This will be a housing budget," said Mr Casey.

"And while we talk about social housing and the importance of social housing. The other key aspect of the housing thing is affordability.

"There is a whole generation now of people who have lost the ability of owning their own home."

Other TDs have admitted they're aware of more cases when families had to sleep in Garda stations or other inappropriate housing outside of Dublin.

Fianna Fáil's housing spokesperson Darragh O’Brien called for the establishment of a taskforce on child homelessness, calling the current situation "shameful".

"The number of children living in homelessness has been steadily on the rise, that’s even clear from the Department of Housing’s own data," said Mr O’Brien in a statement.

Despite these rises the Government have continued to turn a blind eye to the problem and tolerate the consistnt neglect of homeless children.

"I have contacted the Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy TD and have arranged a meeting to urge him to support our call for the establishment of this taskforce.

"There are of course other abject failures occurring in housing more generally but child homelessness is a crisis that must be urgently solved. The welfare of children in this State must be protected at all costs."

- Digital Desk

Update: 11.44am: Fine Gael's Maria Bailey says you would need 'to be made of stone' not to be affected by the photos of homeless mother Margaret Cash and her six children sleeping in Tallaght Garda Station.

The Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Housing says there are services available for people in need of emergency accommodation.

She says she is in daily contact with the Housing Minister who is currently on his holidays but is aware of the situation.

Deputy Bailey (below) is urging people in need of accommodation to contact their local services as support is available.

"You'd want to be made of stone not to feel anything from seeing that picture and it is not acceptable for any family to be in that situation, said Ms Bailey.

"Accommodation was offered in a hotel that was in Meath. Transportation would have been provided. Most hotels are kind of two adults, two children is the formula.

"Pop up beds or pull up beds are put into those rooms and while it would be overcrowded and not appropriate long-term for the first night that would be provided and the following morning then the services all kick-in."

She added: "People keep looking at numbers and I'm reluctant to do that because there are faces behind these numbers that we see in the papers again this morning.

"1,800 families and individuals did leave emergency accommodation and hotels last year so while we trebled that, the amount of people coming into the system - nobody envisaged that happening."

Earlier: Opposition parties claim Housing Minister has 'gone missing'

Opposition parties are claiming the Housing Minister has 'gone missing' amid the growing homelessness crisis in the capital.

Charities say there has been a major spike in the number of homeless families who are struggling to get emergency accommodation.

The issue was highlighted when Margaret Cash and six of her children were forced to spend the night in a Garda station.

It is claimed Dublin's tourist boom is forcing homeless families out of their hotel accommodation - and the visit of Pope Francis is expected to make matters worse.

Sinn Féin's Housing Spokesperson Eoin O'Broin says there has been a deafening silence from Housing Minster Eoghan Murphy.

"We need to hear from the Minister or a senior cabinet colleague urgently to say what are they going to do throughout the rest of August/early September to ensure that those families that otherwise won't get into accommodation because it's not available will have some secure place to stay overnight."

Anthony Flynn from Inner City Helping Homeless says the Housing Minister needs to come up with solutions.

"We hear of contingency plans, we hear of debates, we hear of talk and that's all we're hearing from Government and the DRHE (Dublin Region Homeless Executive).

"In fairness to the DRHE, at times, they are under pressure but they are charged with doing this job on behalf of the Minister and the Department but the job is just not being done.

"It's time Eoghan Murphy came out of whatever shell he is in there now at the moment and comes down and talks to use on the ground and lets us know what his plans are to effectively tackle this crisis. "

Yesterday it emerged that Margaret Cash, 28, was forced to sleep in Tallaght Garda Station due to lack of emergency homeless accommodation on Wednesday night.

Margaret Cash with six of her seven children (Aoife Moore/PA)

“I was heartbroken that I couldn’t do more for them as a mother, I was ashamed to see my kids splattered round a station floor like that,” she said.

Ms Cash and her seven children – Johnny, 11, Tommy, 10, Rebecca, nine, Miley, seven, Jim, four, Rocky, two, and Andy, one – have been in emergency accommodation for over a year after her landlord went bankrupt and their house was repossessed.

She has been in different one-night emergency family accommodations ever since.


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