AN 18-year-old young person was forced to sleep overnight in a local garda station during Christmas week, following a fruitless search for emergency accommodation.
Social Democrats councillor Chris Pender, who says that the Government’s policies to tackle the homelessness crisis are not working, explained that on Friday 27 December he spent six hours trying to locate emergency accommodation for an 18-year-old who hasn’t even been out of care a year.
“It was all in vain,~” he said “as the emergency accommodation number of Kildare Co Council was closed at 5pm. Usually it’s open until 9, which is often still too early”.
The Kildare-Newbridge Municipal District representative said the young person and his mother had been staying with someone else, but had to seek alternative accommodation, adding that the teen wound up sleeping on the bench in the lobby of the garda station. Thankfully he has since found more permanent lodgings but, as Cllr Pender explained, “unfortunately it’s in Dublin because we don’t have any services for young homeless people in Kildare”.
While he noted that the situation “highlights the lack of integration between Kildare Co Council and our homelessness services,” the councillor praised Peter McVerry Trust.
Cllr Pender himself has been described as one of the hidden homeless and has first-hand experience of the procedures in place for those experiencing homelessness. According to St Vincent de Paul, hidden homelessness refers to those who have no place to call home and are “often doubling and tripling up, staying with friends or relatives as they have nowhere else to go. Their living situation is precarious, unsuitable and unsustainable”.
The Social Democrats councillor said that in 2014 he ended up homeless due to a family breakdown and slept on the streets for about a month before getting into a hostel in Athy. He explained that he made “an agreement with the family to move back home” and added that “to be honest, since 2015 I’ve essentially been couch surfing” though there was a period when he had a job and an apartment of his own.
“That’s still the case for me,” he explained. “There are families living in box bedrooms of parents and brothers and sisters, there’s people sleeping on couches all over the place, there’s people who are above the income bracket for social housing but are literally on the poverty line because of what they’re renting, and those people are literally one paycheque away from being homeless.”
His party colleague Linda Hayden – who is running for the Social Democrats in the next general election in Kildare South – said that the homeless issue in Kildare has reached crisis point.
“The official figures are over 195 people homeless in Kildare, 138 of which are families. This is not including the hidden homeless, the couch surfers, the rough sleepers and the families who are literally struggling to keep a roof over their heads,” she said.
“The whole system is set up to keep people from escaping it. The only thing that will fix this crisis is government, not developer built, social housing. Developments also need to have the correct infrastructure and facilities to go with them. It is government policy that has led to this crisis and it is government policy which continues it.”