Shame, guilt, anger: Children in hubs want homes of their own

“We can no longer allow our children to live with the overwhelming feelings of shame, guilt and anger because they are homeless, through no fault of their own.”

That was the message from the Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, as his office today publishes ‘There’s No Place Like Home’, a report which gives an insight into the experiences of children living in family hubs — purpose-built or specifically adapted premises to house children and families who are homeless.

The views of 80 children living in eight family hubs in Dublin, Cork, and Limerick are represented in the report. The Ombudsman’s office talked to children between the ages of five and 17, as well as with parents of children under five.

The children were asked what they liked, what they found challenging, and what they would change about family hubs.

“Children told us, in their own words, what it is like to share a room with their parents and siblings, what it is like to go to school from a family hub, to study and do homework,” said Dr Muldoon.

“They told us about what it is like to have to go to bed and turn off all the lights when their younger brother or sister is going to sleep.

“Space, privacy, noise, not being able to have visitors, feelings of shame and embarrassment, were all issues raised by the children who talked to us.”

Comments from children (whose names have been changed to protect their anonymity) include the following;

“Well, sometimes I have to read in the toilet if my sister wants to go to sleep. I love reading, my favourite book is Harry Potter.” - Lena, 9

“…the noise keeps me awake, I feel tired when I go to school. I feel like my eyes feel like they are about to go to sleep.” - Chloe, 7

“I don’t tell people I live here, it’s a homeless hub. It’s embarrassing. It’s horrible, it’s not nice.” - Thomas, 16

“I know it’s a house and everything but it’s not a home. I don’t look forward to coming back here or anything.” - Anna, 16

“I believe that the time has come to progress the conversation on including an express right to housing in our Constitution,” said Dr Muldoon.

“Children recognised the efforts made to provide facilities for children and they were vocal in their praise for the staff working in family hubs. However, the overwhelming message was that they want a home of their own. After two years and considerable investment, an independent formal evaluation of family hubs is needed. What is the long term plan for family hubs and what will their legacy be?”

He said that, where families are in family hubs, statutory time limits, as well as independently-regulated standards are needed.

“Data collection must also be improved and we must ensure that it is fully transparent to inform the right decisions in the best interests of people who are homeless, especially children,” he said.

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