My children are not homeless, but they could be. All it takes is illness, unemployment or bad luck, and that secure safe life you thought would continue forever can come tumbling down around you. I used to rent with friends back in the 1980s and landlords kicked us out twice to sell homes or to demolish them.
But I was young, earning a good salary and childfree, and accommodation was plentiful. There was never a problem moving to somewhere new.
I tolerated issues that I wouldn’t put up with now: like sleeping in a ground floor bedroom when the window could be opened from the outside 😶 But I was young and indestructible, unlike so many of the homeless families in Ireland right now.
Can you imagine coping with problems like these with young children to care for? Having to move every year or so, often to worse accommodation as rental properties becomes scarcer. Having to change schools, GPs, find other services in your new location, as well as trying to provide stability for your children.
And then the day may come when there are no more rental properties that will take your family. When the bank finally repossesses your house. When your relationship breaks up and you lose the roof over your head. Then you become a statistic, and for too long, an invisible statistic. One that other people don’t want to think about.
Today is National Day Against Child Homelessness in Ireland, and it’s being marked by #MyNameIs posters throughout Dublin. There are 3,000 homeless children in Ireland and many more are at risk of homelessness, like my friend Tracy, who also has a severely disabled child. You can read her story here:
There are also 200,000 empty homes in Ireland, so something has gone badly wrong somewhere.
Some say that the homelessness is a deliberate state policy, and while that may be an exaggeration, it is certainly state negligence. A policy of leaving the supply of homes to the private sector, ignoring increases in population, the likelihood of home repossessions in an era of austerity, and introducing policies that cut the income of lone parents (who make up a large proportion of new homeless) have all contributed to the current crisis, but presumably the government figured that homeless people are not their voter base and could be ignored.
But they can’t be. Families have to be given accommodation. Right now it’s in hostels, hotels or hubs, all of which are unsuitable and all cost more than providing real homes. So it doesn’t make economic sense.
It doesn’t make sense for society either, because a price will be paid. Homeless families will pay it now. But society will pay later in broken lives and broken people who may need life long support, or worse. If you want children to grow up to respect the State, you need to treat them with respect during their childhood. Homeless children are being treated as expendable right now.
I see this getting worse, because the future planned for us all involves ordinary people owning nothing and renting everything, from cars, to houses, combined with a cashless society, precarious employment and work activation policies, so far more people will be living from month to month, never knowing when one false step will mean they lose everything,
This is not the future I want for my children, or the children of my friends and family.
We must say stop, before it’s too late.
What you can do:
- If you see one of the #MyNameIs posters, please take a selfie with one and share on social media to highlight and help end child homelessness.
- Follow @ on twitter and MyNameIs on Facebook.