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Deeply disturbing that up to 8 homeless families spend night in Garda station

9 August 2018

Statement by Jan O'Sullivan TD
Spokesperson on Housing & Local Government, Enterprise & Innovation

Labour Party Housing spokesperson, Jan O’Sullivan TD, has called on the Government to progress the Housing (Homeless Families) Bill in light of reports that up to 8 families were forced to self-accommodate in Garda stations last night.

Deputy O’Sullivan said:

"It is deeply disturbing to hear reports during the week about homeless families and children having to sleep in Garda stations because there was no other accommodation available.

“This is not the first time we have heard stories like this and unless something is done to put children at the heart of our State’s response to homelessness, it won’t be the last.

“There seems to be little urgency around reducing the number of children who are homeless, we can see from figures released from the Department of Housing that the numbers of homeless children are on the rise.

“The law needs to be changed to put the best interests of the child at the heart of the action that is taken when a family becomes homeless. The Labour Party currently has a bill that would do just that, that is stuck in legislative limbo because of the slow nature of getting laws through the Oireachtas.

"As it stands, the Housing Acts refer to a person as homeless if there is no accommodation available which the person, "together with any other person who normally resides with him or who might reasonably be expected to reside with him", can reasonably be expected to occupy. The homeless person is then entitled to apply to a housing authority for accommodation or other assistance.

"But there is no explicit recognition in our current legislative scheme of the 'other persons' as persons in their own right, with entitlements under law.

"Specifically, there is no statutory recognition of the needs of a homeless family unit nor, notwithstanding the passing of the constitutional amendment on the rights of the child, is there any statutory recognition of the constitutional rights of homeless children.

"Our Housing (Homeless Families) Bill 2017 would require Local Authorities to recognise these persons as a family unit and to have specific regard to the best interests of the children of homeless families in crisis accommodations situations.

“Taking them to a Garda station or telling the family to 'self-accommodate', which means spending hours trying to find a hotel or B and B that will take them, is hugely stressful and we can only imagine how alarming this must be for children.

“In 2012, the Rights of the Child were enshrined in the Constitution. Those rights must be back up by legal instruments.

“Our Bill puts the 'best interests of the child' at the centre of how Local Authorities must provide for homeless families, including the need for safe accommodation, the Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy needs to get his act together and ensure that situations like this are no longer tolerated.”