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Hundreds of children at risk of sleeping rough, homeless charity warns

Published 01/09/2016

Focus Ireland supported more than 12,500 people who had no home or were at risk of losing their home last year
Focus Ireland supported more than 12,500 people who had no home or were at risk of losing their home last year

One of the country's largest homeless charities has warned that children risk sleeping rough every night as it struggles to find beds for families on a daily basis.

Focus Ireland saw a nine per cent jump in the number of people it helped last year to more than 12,500 - the highest number in its 30 years of work.

Founder of the charity Sister Stanislaus Kennedy demanded the Government take action on the reality of hundreds of children being in danger every day.

"If this situation is not addressed immediately I fear we will see families with children being forced to spend a night on our streets," she said.

Focus Ireland released its annual report at its newly redeveloped housing in Stanhope Green in Dublin where it provides accommodation in 71 units for people who were previously homeless.

It plans to double its housing stock over the next three years by adding another 600 homes.

The report was launched on the back of month-old figures which showed there were 1,130 families, with 2,348 children, in emergency accommodation including hotels, hostels and B&Bs in towns and cities around the country.

Focus Ireland said 90 families have become homeless every month this year, compared with 60 a month last year.

Chairman Gerry Danaher said the charity struggles every day to find beds and safe accommodation for the hundreds of families who have no home.

"It is not uncommon for us to still be seeking beds for 10 or more families late into the evening," he said.

"Frequently we are still seeking rooms for some of these families as midnight approaches."

Focus Ireland praised efforts by Simon Coveney, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, in trying to tackle the housing and homelessness crisis but warned the Government's plans were silent on the immediate crisis of homeless children.

"The risk of children being forced to sleep rough with their families for want of an emergency bed is now an every night reality," Mr Danaher said.

The charity chairman said the only firm commitment in the minister's action plan was a pledge to end the use of hotel rooms for emergency accommodation by providing rapid build housing.

"This is welcome but even the best emergency accommodation is not a home," Mr Danaher said.

Focus Ireland's report is being launched days after another leading campaigner on the issue, Father Peter McVerry, called for the Government to seize empty homes for social housing.

The Peter McVerry Trust said the number of homeless people it placed in emergency accommodation last year was up almost 90% to 3,847.

Sister Stan called for new laws on how homelessness should be dealt with as existing legislation was designed in the late 1980s when it was predominantly a crisis affecting single men.

"Everyone is trying hard to make the outdated system work but services across the country desperately need leadership from Government to update the rules to reflect the new reality," she said.

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