A Photo of 6 Homeless Children Sleeping in a Police Station Shines a Light on Ireland's Housing Crisis
A photograph of a homeless family spending the night in a Dublin police station has gone viral — and is shining a light on the true extent of Ireland’s housing crisis.
Margaret Cash reportedly had to sleep at the Tallaght Garda station, along with six of her seven children, aged between 1 and 11.
The image shows the children lying on rows of metal chairs, as they slept at the station on Wednesday night. Her seventh child has reportedly been in hospital and was staying with a family friend.
Margaret Cash and her children, forced to sleep in a Garda station due to homelessness, have been in emergency accommodation since last September, after the private house she was renting was repossessed. She has been on the housing list 11 years. https://t.co/7drsKmSGiCpic.twitter.com/h2HAIGyuTF— Caelainn Hogan (@CaelainnH) August 9, 2018
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Since Cash posted the picture on Facebook, her post has been shared over 2,200 times, and has also been shared widely on Twitter.
“Well after been 11 year on the housing list a year on the homeless dis is where my 7 kids have to sleep,” she wrote.
“It was so hard,” she told the Irish Times. “People coming in and out and the doors opening and closing. The baby was screaming crying, he had no way of turning around, he was stuck in the buggy. It was horrible.”
“I’ve lost myself, I can’t even speak,” she continued. “I don’t know whether I’m coming or going … I have family but I’ve seven kids. They’d take you in the odd night, but they couldn’t take you in every night.”
It's depressing how many people saw the photos of homeless children sleeping in a garda station last night and decided to attack the mother because she's a lone parent. I thought we left that Ireland behind when the last of the Magdalenes closed down.— Jennifer O'Connell (@jenoconnell) August 9, 2018
According to the Irish Times, Cash and her children became homeless last September after the private house she was renting was repossessed, and the family have been living in emergency accommodation since.
The Irish police service said that staff at the station “tried all the emergency lines in relation to homeless shelter and no accommodation was located, a number of local hotels were also phoned.”
“The family were cared for during the night by the members working and received a hot breakfast this morning in Tallaght GS,” it said in a statement.
The family reportedly sought help from the South Dublin Co-County housing department after they left the station.
But the image has reignited a national conversation about homelessness, particularly family homelessness.
Currently, according to Dublin-based homelessness organisation Focus Ireland, more than 1 in 3 of those in emergency accommodation now is a child.
The number of homeless people, however, doesn’t include “hidden homelessness” — which includes people who are sleeping on friends’ sofas, or living in squats.
Figures released last week suggest that we are still in the midst of a housing crisis. There are close to 10,000 people currently homeless today, 3,500 of whom are children. It is shocking to note that a child in Ireland becomes homeless every 3 and a half hours in Dublin alone.— GiveBack.ie (@givebackIE) July 31, 2018
Women and children staying in domestic violence refuges are also not included in the homeless emergency accommodation counts, nor are people who are sleeping rough.
In March 2018, according to Focus Ireland, the official rough sleeping count confirmed 110 people sleeping rough in Dublin.
“In the past, most of the people using emergency homeless accommodation were single adults,” according to the website. “But in the last three years, there has been a rapid increase in the number of families becoming homeless.”
While causes of homelessness are always complex, Focus Ireland points to structural factors — including lack of affordable housing, unemployment, poverty, inadequate mental health services — and personal factors — like addictions, mental health issues, and family breakdown, among others.
“The current rise in family homelessness is driven primarily by structural economic factors,” it said.
“The overwhelming number of families becoming homeless had their last stable home in the private rented sector, and the crisis in this sector is the immediate cause of their homelessness — landlords selling up or being repossessed, shortage of properties to rent, scarcity of properties accepting rent supplement, and a high rent.”
Following the police station photograph, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive said in a statement that it’s dealing with an “unprecedented number of families” seeking emergency accommodation.