The number of children living in emergency accommodation has increased by 250% in the last three years. This is a crisis of unprecedented scale.
Life for a family in emergency accommodation is difficult. Eating, studying, sleeping, playing, dressing and clothes-drying all happen within the same small four walls. Children share beds with their siblings and often their parents. Families live out of suitcases, having given away or stored many of their belongings, never settling, always aware that they may have to move on.
‘Her entire world was the space between those two beds’ – Barnardos Project Worker describing the life of a two year old living in a hotel.
In addition to the over 3000 children living in emergency accommodation, there are thousands more who are not in emergency accommodation but are also without a home. These are the hidden homeless - living with family or friends, often in overcrowded and inappropriate accommodation but not formally reported in homelessness statistics.
Being homeless takes a significant toll on a child’s health and development. They often experience anxiety as they fret over their future and see the strain on their parents who no doubt display signs of worry and distress. “I am keeping my kids positive but deep down I am falling apart”, one parent living in emergency accommodation told us. “I cried for the first two weeks in there, I sobbed my heart out in the bathroom, it makes you feel like a failure as a mother” said another.
76% of households which were supported out of homelessness in 2017 were transitioned into tenancies in the private rental sector. The continued over-reliance on the private rental sector to support social housing needs is only kicking the can down the road as these families will continue to face the uncertainty and volatility of the rental sector.
Barnardos is calling on the Government to guarantee that no child spends more than six months in emergency accommodation – ensuring an appropriate and long-term solution at the end of this period. The Government must also commit to increasing the level of social housing builds and relying less on the private rental sector to fulfil housing needs. Without long-term solutions, we will fail to see any genuine reduction child homelessness. Join our movement to transform childhood in Ireland.