Today, during Statements on Child Homelessness, Deputy Broughan told the Dáil that it is three years since he met with the Ombudsman for Children, Dr. Niall Muldoon, and highlighted his concern at the inappropriate accommodating of homeless children in hotel rooms and b&bs and at the lack of action by the Government in tackling the crisis. At that time, he also met with the Children’s Rights Alliance regarding the inclusion of children experiencing homelessness in their report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. That summer in 2015 (during the week of the 24th – 30th of August 2015), there were a shocking 707 homeless families and 1,496 homeless children but now during the week of the 21st to the 27th of May 2018, the most recent figures made available this afternoon, those numbers jumped dramatically to 1,724 homeless families with 3,826 homeless children (up again from 1,712 homeless families with 3,689 homeless children at the end of April 2018).
On Tuesday afternoon, I had the opportunity to visit the new Family Hub on Greencastle Road. While I do not agree that families and children should be placed in accommodation with shared facilities, the hub is a better option than wholly unsuitable hotel rooms. There should be a short maximum time on the stays in hubs if they must be used. Rents continue to rise to extortionate, unaffordable levels which will only exacerbate homelessness, especially across cities.
As the Minister is aware, there are now more than 3,200 children living in hotel rooms, family hubs, bed and breakfast accommodation, domestic violence refuges and other unsuitable and cramped accommodation. The Minister and her Government committed to ending the use of hotel rooms and that type of accommodation for accommodating families who are homeless by 1 July 2017. That deadline was missed. Although some families were moved into hubs, I believe 690 families are still in hotel rooms. Has the Minister carried out any studies in respect of the physical and mental health impacts of this on these children? Is there any follow-up when, hopefully and at long last, they receive permanent accommodation? What weekly actions will the Minister take in order to protect and care for the welfare of those children? For example, has the Minister visited any of the hotels or hubs in question?
The Dáil officially started back for the Autumn/Winter term on Wednesday afternoon, the 20th of September. Of course, the Committees were already back last week and the Budgetary Oversight Committee, of which I am a member, is meeting twice per week throughout September as we prepare for Budget 2018. This week and last we heard again from representatives from IBEC, NERI, ESRI, ICTU and others. Next week, we will meet again with the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohue.
During the week of 22 to 28 May there were 1,312 homeless families, including an astonishing 2,777 children, in homeless accommodation around the country. They are really shameful figures. Some 852 of these families were single parent families and there were almost 1,100 families with 2,266 children in Dublin alone. Seven weeks ago, on 18 May, I raised a Topical Issue about the Government’s commitment to end the placing of families in hotels and guesthouses by 1 July and the failure of the then Minister to ensure good communication and give notice to the families concerned.
Deputy Broughan has always been an extremely vocal critic of the failings of this and the previous Fine Gael governments in tackling family homelessness. Deputy Broughan has been continuously raising questions on the matter and most recently has been trying to support local volunteer groups in accessing information in the Family Hub to be located in the Bargaintown Warehouse on Greencastle Parade, Coolock.
Deputy Broughan today strongly criticised new Housing Minister, Eoghan Murphy, and Dublin City Council for accommodating homeless families with young children in an unfinished and unsafe building site at Lynam’s Hotel, O’Connell St. Following contact from a distressed young mother, who was placed there on Monday night with her young children, Deputy Broughan wrote to Minister Murphy, Minister English and Deputy Chief Executive of DCC, Brendan Kenny.