A new report has detailed how families with children, including newborns and those with life-threatening illnesses, have been existing in one night only accommodation due to the homeless crisis and how many are “close to breakdown”.
The Report on the Lived Experiences of Homeless Families by the Mercy Law Resource Centre (MLRC), an independent law centre and registered charity, found that it had to intervene on behalf of clients in the most desperate circumstances, including a family who could not store medication for their sick child for six weeks because they had no access to a fridge and a mother-of-six discharged back into one night only accommodation with a baby.
MLRC provides free legal advice and representation for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, and the organisation said its report comes at a time of “desperate crisis”.
Last October the number of people homeless in this country reached 10,514 — a record high — and MLRC said: “Families also appear to be spending longer periods in emergency homeless accommodation and there are increasing numbers of families who are homeless for 24 months or more.
In 2017, MLRC engaged with 221 families experiencing homelessness. In 2018, MLRC engaged with 452 families experiencing homelessness. As of November 2019, 52% of MLRC’s current clients are families with minor children who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
It listed serious issues that it said needed to be addressed, including families who have been refused emergency accommodation.
“One client of MLRC and her family were refused emergency accommodation by the local authority on the basis that they were intentionally homeless,” it said.
One of the children had epilepsy, it said, with the risk of elevated seizures due to the family sleeping on a living room floor.
Another issue was the provision of one night only accommodation. “In May 2019, 46 families were on one night only accommodation, however by October 2019 this had increased to 72 families,” it said. Those families cannot access the accommodation ordinarily until 8pm and must leave by 9.30am.
The report also referred to other failures. One family had been on one night only emergency accommodation with five children for eight months, when the mother gave birth to a sixth child.
Another family who has a child with a life-threatening illness was also placed in one night only accommodation. The child went untreated for six weeks as the family had no access to a fridge to store medication.
MLRC’s managing solicitor Rebecca Keatinge said the cases referred to in the report were “distressing and painful” and added: “MLRC believes that the majority of recommendations in the report are achievable and could be implemented quickly.”
Read more at mercylaw.ie