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.
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.
One of the Minister’s many promises, which has been reiterated consistently over the year, was that by mid-2017 emergency hotel and bed and breakfast type accommodation for families would only be used in limited circumstances and would have largely been replaced by suitable permanent family accommodation through the delivery of additional housing solutions. Part 34 of Rebuilding Ireland includes a whole section on moving families out of hotels and recognises that accommodating family units in hotel arrangements is inappropriate for anything other than a short period of time. The document states an intention to move the existing group of families out of hotel arrangements as quickly as possible and to limit the extent to which such accommodation has to be used for new presentations. Deputy Coveney has continued to repeat that message over the past ten months, as has the Minister of State, Deputy English, setting 1 July as the target.