Reader's Blog: What will become of our growing army of homeless children

The latest statistic on homelessness is enough to fill any right-minded citizen with fury and shame. The spectacle of 3,784 children in temporary accommodation is nothing short of barbaric.

At a very minimum, those tasked with the responsibility of housing these children should be required to stand down, giving the job to someone who could do better.

What in the name of God will happen to these children, stripped of their childhood and corralled into hotel bedrooms — some of them no bigger than horseboxes?

That question has been haunting me, particularly in recent times. A little boy from our terrace went to join the list. He is six years old and lived with his sister and their young mother in private rented accommodation. He is a funny, fearless little fellow. In no time at all he took ownership of the terrace. He’d race his scooter from one end of the terrace to the other. He’d frighten the living daylights out of motorists. But we all took to him and he to us.

One day, I found him atop a three-storey scaffold. Finally, I bribed him to come down. Nothing abashed, he began to tell me about all the magic things he saw “up there”: great big boats, a river and big high red railing sticking up (cranes).

He was filled with curiosity, a truly inquiring mind in the making. In the front gardens, Adam would play ball with the other children, they’d race their bikes on the terrace, and on summer evenings, they’d draw pictures with coloured chalks on the footpaths and roads of the terrace.

Then one day after Easter, we saw the ‘For Sale’ sign going up. We feared the worst and so it turned out. He told us that he would be going away — he didn’t know where. Later he told me with stars in his eyes that he would be living in a hotel with “a big, big pool”.

Then the day came; he said goodbye to his little playmates — they all cried. When he came to my door, I told him that we were all sad and would miss him. Don’t be sad, he said. I’ll come back in five days, and he raised his small fingers and counted: “a haon, a dó, a trí, a ceathair, a cúig... ”.

Then he straightened his shoulders and with his mother and sister faced into his future in the hotel on the side of the mean street, with no pool, no space to race his scooter, and not a square inch of grass to kick a ball.

One more statistic to add to the already huge number of 3,784.

What will become of those children; where will this boy be in 10 years time? Cruelly cut off from the things of ordinary daily living in his most formative years, and from a place to call home? Does anyone in public life give a damn?

Mairín Quill

Cork

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