Cheryl Barnewell, 26, has been told to sleep in a Garda station twice in the last three months when no emergency accommodation was available for her family of four in Dublin.
“They said, ‘You can’t stay here’ when we arrived at the Garda station on Tuesday night,” Ms Barnewell told the Irish Examiner.
Ms Barnewell, Glen Concannon, 26, and their two sons, Clayton, 9, and Rocco, 23 months, have been homeless since last October after the property they were renting was sold.
“I said we would rather sleep in a cell than go into a hostel where you can see drugs, but we were told we would have to be arrested to go into a cell,” said Ms Barnewell.
The family sat outside the station until midnight in their car, before texting the CEO of Inner City Helping Homeless, Anthony Flynn.
He began ringing more than 50 hotels to find accommodation for them but was unsuccessful. The family ended up sleeping on his office floor before getting up for work and school at 6am.
Ms Barnewell said her children have been severely affected by the situation. “Rocco is just existing. I used to have him in a great routine where he had his breakfast, lunch, dinner, and tea, and now he’s getting sick and won’t eat for me. He doesn’t understand what is going on but he keeps saying ‘going, going’.
“When you ask him what he means, he says ‘hotel’.”
Clayton, goes to school, boxing, and hurling in Finglas but constantly has to move around depending on where the family finds accommodation.
“He’s a totally different person (as a result of this). It plays on my mind every day. He finds it hard. I worry he’s never going to get over this,” said Ms Barnewell.
Her partner works 12-hour shifts five days a week and picks up extra shifts at the weekend, while Ms Barnewell has been a qualified hairdresser since the age of 16.
She had to give up work in order to spend her days finding accommodation, mind her youngest son, and bring her eldest son to and from school.
“I’m a very good parent. I’m a good person. I’m a hairdresser and my partner works. I’ve worked hard for everything I had,” said Ms Barnewell.
“It’s your dignity. That’s what has been taken away from you, your dignity.”
She said going to the media was the “last resort”.
In the last seven-and-a-half months, the family has stayed in 10 locations, as far out as Kildare.
Ms Barnewell said the plan for her life was to work, rear her children and buy a property off Dublin City Council.
“Home” has been Finglas for the last nine years, where she rented privately. It is where her and her sons’ “community” is.
There are 40 modular homes being built near to her son’s school, due to be ready by the end of August, and Ms Barnewell said she hopes to get into one of them.
“We want stability, routine, and to be happy. At the moment, I feel like I am in a maze with no way out. I’m at my wit’s end,” she said.
“A modular house on St Helena’s Rd would be a dream come true, my kids would be really happy.”
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