A video of a nine-year-old boy crawling around the floor of his homeless accommodation has gone viral, writes Joyce Fegan.
"My name is David. I am nine years old, I have cerebral palsy. My room in the B&B is very small so I can’t use my walker or wheelchair,” reads the caption on the video, which has been viewed almost 200,000 times.
The short video was posted online by Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) as part of its #MyNameIs campaign, which aims to give a face to child homelessness in Ireland.
There are currently 2,895 homeless children in the State.
“On Monday morning, the country will wake up to thousands of posters of homeless children’s faces on posters around Dublin, Cork, Kilkenny, Limerick, and Galway,” said David Nugent, head of advocacy at ICHH. “These are real children.”
There will also be another 150 videos similar to David’s posted online throughout the week to highlight child homelessness.
On Monday, playwright and actor Emmet Kirwan will perform a specially written spoken-word piece in Tramline on Hawkins St in Dublin, at 8pm.
“It’s a free event,” said Mr Nugent. “This isn’t about raising money; this is about raising awareness.”
Anthony Flynn, CEO of the charity, which he started four years ago to feed rough sleepers in the capital, said the organisation’s services have had to adapt massively.
“When we started, the homeless issue was rough sleepers and then, by two years, we were inundated with families,” said Mr Flynn. “I don’t believe the public is aware of how bad the child and family homelessness situation really is.
“We estimate that there will be more children than adults in homeless services by January 2018. We want to change the public’s perception on homelessness with #MyNameIs.
“This is an education campaign. We hear about adults, but never children who are homeless.”
The campaign was started after reports emerged of three children, aged six, nine, and 11, being given sleeping bags in the capital recently as no emergency accommodation was available.
“We just thought: ‘what can we do?’ So we came up with #MyNameIs campaign and there are three actions people can take,” said Mr Nugent.
“One is to use the #MyNameIs hashtag on social media to start conversations about homelessness; the second thing is to lobby your local councillor, TD, or prospective political candidate on the issue; and thirdly the campaign is asking people to reflect on their skill or trade to see if they can volunteer an hour of their time to help an organisation in their area.
“We carried out a survey and around 85% of people said homelessness was rough sleepers, people begging, or those with substance abuse issues. Very few said it was it was family or children. Homelessness has changed and we need to address that.”
While the campaign runs this week, the 2,000 posters will be recovered and turned into a life-size house, to be placed outside Leinster House when the Dáil returns on September 20.
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.