Limerick bus initiative ensures homelessness no barrier to education

A community-supported school bus is ensuring that 15 homeless children living in emergency accommodation in the city get to school every day.

The school children are among a total of 57 living in emergency accommodation in Limerick, according to latest figures.

The daily bus service to Corpus Christi National School in Moyross is supported by school principal Tiernan O’Neill and financed through local community fundraising activities.

The driving force behind the service is Moyross parish priest Father Tony O’Riordan who said the service costs up to €5,000 to run annually.

“For children on the bus that are homeless, we don’t know where home is going to be. That can be stressful for an adult but can you imagine how an eight or 10-year-old feels,” he said.

“I know of one situation where a baby was born, released from hospital and that child began its life at four days old in a hotel room with his older sister. We have had one family that has been in 14 different locations within a three-week period,” he continued.

The Moyross school bus begins its school run at 7.30am and brings up to 15 school children living in emergency accommodation in the city to school every day.

Principal of Corpus Christi National School, Tiernan O’Neill, said, “What the bus enables us to do, is provide a safe environment for the children during the day and ensures that their journey to school is a smooth one.”

“The bus service is used by up to 15 children throughout the day, during a number of runs. We fund the service through a number of activities including bag packing and cake sales,” he continued.

According to most recent figures, 197 people, 57 of whom are children, are in emergency accommodation in Limerick.

Three hostels in Limerick city are accommodating men and women; St Patrick’s Hostel, Thomond House and McGarry House; all of which are operating at full capacity, and have waiting lists.

Suaimhneas, which provides emergency accommodation for families, is also operating at full capacity.

According to Fr O’Riordan some homeless families need to find emergency accommodation themselves.

“The children don’t have a permanent address and may be sleeping in their relatives, grandparents or uncles and aunts,” he said.

“The system with the Homeless Action Team is that they will calculate a rough budget, they will give you a cheque that you will need to present at the hotel and in many cases hotels can be fully booked,” he continued.

He explained that in some cases families don’t get enough money which means supplementing them.

“They have been given €300 but the hotel is actually €450, so the money is not matching the need,” he said.

Limerick TD Maurice Quinlivan has pledged to seek government support for the bus service, insisting, “nobody should be homeless with children”.

“The government should deliver on homes for people to be able to live in. There should be funding provided for the bus, I will ask Minister Simon Coveney to intervene and provide funding for this bus,” said Mr Quinlivan.

Daniel's article appeared first appeared in the Limerick Voice student newspaper.

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