If we Tolerate This, Our Children Will be Next

The Trauma of Child Homelessness by Brian McLoughlin

(Reading time: 2 mins.)



In March 2017, then housing minister Simon Coveney officially opened the first family hub in Dublin for families experiencing homelessness. He said this was a response to the negative experiences of homeless families being accommodated in commercial hotels. Coveney then confidently stated that the use of commercial hotels to accommodate homeless families would end in July 2017. 

In Inner City Helping Homeless, we knew this was yet another empty promise that couldn’t possibly be delivered, but Coveney persisted with the publicity tour. When asked by The Journal if he really thought the goal of no longer using hotels for homeless families was achievable, he stuck to his guns that it was possible and that people were working hard to make it happen.

Fast forward four years, and the use of commercial hotels and B&Bs for homeless families continues as more and more hotels pop up around the city. A recent DRHE report stated that in April 2021 there were 113 families still being accommodated in commercial hotels. Families cramped in to one room with their children, their children’s toys, school books – all at a huge cost to the state. While we were all told to stay at home during Covid-19, these families had to spend day after day sharing one room, putting huge mental health pressure on both the children and their parents. It is well documented that living in emergency accommodation impacts a child’s development, creating physical and mental health issues for children in primary school. Homelessness is creating a trauma for a generation of children, and we will be seeing the fallout of this for years to come.

“There’s nothing nice about how I feel” – Charlie, aged 6

In 2019, the Ombudsman for Children brought out a report called No Place Like Home.  For the report, they spoke to children living in emergency accommodation, from small children right up to teenagers. They asked them to explain what life for them was like in their own words, and some of the answers would break a heart made of stone. Children feeling like they were prisoners and were being punished when all they are guilty of is becoming homeless in a country that would rather pay huge money to hotels, B&Bs and family hubs than develop a proper public housing building plan to give these children homes.  When asked what they liked about where they live, the answers spoke for themselves:

“I like nothing about living here, I have none of my friends here, I can’t do a sleep over … [it] makes me feel sad. There’s nothing nice about how I feel”. (Charlie, aged 6)

“It’s like a prison …. It’s just horrible” – Rebecca, aged 10

“The rules are very strict. The worst is that you are not allowed to have friends in your room. They just expect you to sit on your own. And not being allowed to be anywhere without your mam, you’re not even allowed to sit in the room for ten minutes by yourself. I know it has safety issues but nothing is going to happen … If we break the rules we will get kicked out. It’s like a prison … it’s just horrible”. (Rebecca, aged 10)

“Some days I didn’t even want to wake up” – Rachel, aged 10

“Some days I didn’t even want to wake up because I didn’t want to face this day … I am tired in school. Some days I would just sit there and not even smile”. (Rachel, aged 10)

When there are ten-year-old children having suicidal thoughts we as a society are failing these children. Many speak of not being allowed to have visitors or sleep-overs – even prisoners are allowed to have visitors. Why are we allowing this?

 “Children … were struggling to learn to walk in a cramped room”

In 2018, Temple Street Children’s Hospital experienced a big spike in children being released to ‘No Fixed Abode’ and wrote a report on the impact of homelessness on children. The report stated that homeless children are most likely to get sick from their cramped accommodation. The main reasons children presented to Temple Street were burns (kettles in hotel rooms), scabies from dodgy mattresses, injuries from falls, and respiratory issues. Even more shocking is the fact that homeless children were not developing quickly enough: they were struggling to learn to walk in a cramped room and even the development of their swallow was effected due to the food they were having to eat as their parents had no available cooking facilities.  Research shows that homelessness influences every facet of a child’s life, from conception to young adulthood, and that the experience of homelessness inhibits the physical, emotional, cognitive, social and behavioural development of children.

A family eats food from a voluntary service in Dublin city’s main street

“As of April 2021 there were 167 families, 247 adults and 475 children, who are in emergency accommodation for over two years”

These children are this country’s future generations, and they are being let down over and over again by an incompetent government who lack empathy, compassion and vision. A government which continues to outsource state responsibilities to private developers, vulture funds, commercial hotels, B&Bs and privately-operated hostels. Not only do we have a government who lack empathy and compassion, but they are also economically incompetent. Report after report has highlighted what we are doing to children’s development by keeping them in emergency accommodation. As of April 2021 there were 167 families, 247 adults and 475 children, who are in emergency accommodation for over two years.

And what does family emergency accommodation cost? What is the price the taxpayer pays to put children into these environments that cause so much pain?

Fact: it costs more to accommodate a family in emergency accommodation than in a luxury apartment

The figure for accommodating a family of four in emergency accommodation for a year is a staggering €69,000-€80,000.  To put a family in one room, to put a huge strain on the mental and physical health of both the children and their parents.  For context, American real estate fund Kennedy Wilson are renting out units in Dublin’s Capitol Dock Development, originally marketed as Dublin’s Most Desirable Address. On-site amenities include a concierge service, gym, fitness studio, business lounge, residents’ lounge, chef’s kitchen and a cinema room. Nearly half of these apartments are vacant today, potential homes sitting empty as families struggle through life in emergency accommodation.  And the cost of renting one of these apartments is considerably less than what the taxpayer is paying per family for emergency accommodation. The biggest unit in the Capitol Dock building is a three-bed and the monthly cost is €4,017-€4,410.  This is between €20,000 and €30,000 cheaper annually than putting a homeless family into a hotel or B&B for the year.  Is this acceptable to people?

We owe it to these children to fight for them, to tell the government that we will no longer accept their hyperbole and broken promises. These children deserve a safe and secure home, something stated in the original constitution, and we have gotten further and further away from that in the last ten years. We all need to work together to get a referendum on the Right to Housing, and as Covid restrictions lift we need to see feet on the street for water-charges-level protests to shame the government into immediate action.

As the Manic Street Preachers song says, If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next.

Brian McLoughlin is Head of Communications for Inner City Helping Homeless and one of the four contributors to Unite’s Take Four group blog, along with Conor McCabe, Ber Grogan and Laura Broxson.

end.

WHO KILLED GRENFELL?

Tim Evans

The blackened shell of the Grenfell Tower being hosed by fire fighters in 2017 (Photo sourced: Internet)
(Photo credit: Yui Mok/ PA)

Who killed Grenfell? Who was it killed the people of Grenfell?

Who put their lives at deadly peril?

Very well, I’ll resign, said Paget-Brown

But it wasn’t me who put them down.

I didn’t give them the runaround.

I didn’t want them out of town.

Their deaths aren’t down to my account.

No, I didn’t kill the people of Grenfell.

Who was it killed the people of Grenfell? Who put their lives at deadly peril?

Not us, said the leaders of the TMO

It shouldn’t be us that have to go.

We listened, we really listened, you know.

We dealt with their complaints like the seasoned pros

We are, and that our salaries show.

No, we didn’t kill the people of Grenfell.

Who was it killed the people of Grenfell? Who put their lives at deadly peril?

Not me, said Housing Minister Barwell.

I was always a hundred per cent impartial.

My door was always open wide, as normal.

We had endless meetings, minuted and formal.

My interests were in no way commercial.

No, I didn’t kill the people of Grenfell.

Who was it killed the people of Grenfell? Who put their lives at deadly peril?

Not us, said the 72 Tory MPs.

We never voted down that amendment, you see,

To make rented properties safe and clean.

And while we’re all landlords, as it seems,

We didn’t kill the people of Grenfell.

Who was it killed the people of Grenfell? Who put their lives at deadly peril?

It wasn’t me, said Boris Johnson.

I closed 10 fire stations? That’s just nonsense.

The Knightsbridge one was of special importance.

Just next to Grenfell, by all the evidence.

Thank God I don’t have that on my conscience.

No, I didn’t kill the people of Grenfell.

Who was it killed the people of Grenfell? Who put their lives at deadly peril?

Not us, said the British Government.

You can’t threaten any of us with imprisonment.

A bonfire of regulations, that was our sentiment.

Health and safety just filled us with merriment.

For business and profits, there must be no impediment.

We didn’t kill the people of Grenfell

We didn’t kill the people of Grenfell

We didn’t kill the people of Grenfell

We didn’t kill the people of Grenfell.

(Photo credit AP)

NOTE

On 14 June 2017 a catastrophic fire in the Grenfell tower block in West London caused 72 deaths and 70 injuries and made hundreds homeless. Four years later and nobody has been held to account for what the then Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, called ‘social murder’ – criminal irresponsibility, cowardice and racism by the Tory Government. We will not rest until the guilty are brought to book. No justice – no peace.

The poem will appear in my next collection, ‘Bones of the Apocalypse’, published by Frequency Press. Tim Evans

(Photo credit: DailyTelegraph)
(Photo credit: Guardian)

IRISH FASCISTS HIDE BEHIND THE HOMELESS

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 8 mins.)

The Far-Right in Ireland have been been for some time hiding behind the homeless. Fascists, other racists and even anti-vaxxers have been organising public demonstrations while pretending concern for homeless people and the crisis of homelessness within the state. But recently they sank to a new low – impersonating the homeless.

Fascists are unable to go to the public with their true intentions unadorned, which is understandable. Why would most people support a capitalist dictatorship built on the suppression of all defence organisations such as trade unions and all other democratic organisations? So fascists need to point to false enemies and false problems, along with false solutions to real problems. One section of the false enemies are migrants and therefore immigration is a false problem. But in a real problem, the ongoing homelessness crisis within the state, they propose a false solution: “house the Irish first”.

The Far-Right ignores the real source of that crisis, that local authorities are not building municipal housing for rent and that for several decades governments have denied them the finance to do so. It is not migrants, who struggle to pay high rents in often sub-standard accommodation, who benefit from that situation but property developers and landlords. And their credit-extending backers, the banks, that our governments forced us to bail out not so long ago at the price of an austerity program and interest-repayment schedule to run for decades.

It is rational for the Far-Right to shift the blame to the blameless and away from the real causes for to do otherwise would bring them up not just “against the Government” but against the capitalist system that all our governments have represented and continue to act for.

When the Irish Yellow Vests started up in Ireland a few years ago, a number of Socialist and Republican activists, along with people not active previously, unaware perhaps of how the Far-Right in France had infiltrated the movement there, joined the rallies and marches. But it quickly became clear that this “movement without leaders” did indeed have leaders and that they were of the Far-Right, one a prominent islamophobe and the other a self-promoting opportunist1. And that fascists and racists were working within it using, among other things, the homelessness crisis and promoting “house the Irish first”. Landlords were only targeted for housing migrants and property developers and the banks not at all.

The theme continued as other sections of the Far-Right accused migrants and asylum-seekers of being housed in luxury accommodation and at public expense. Fascists and other racists organised against buildings being used as asylum-seeker hostels and whipped up fears of invasions by thousands of muslim terrorists and in at least one case, set fire to a proposed hostel building.

Another opportunist and cynical use of the homelessness crisis has been the holding of anti-vaxxer rallies and other publicity-seeking events while claiming to be doing so “for the homeless”. Carey has been holding little rallies for a number of Saturdays at the Garden of Remembrance, having himself videoed there, also broadcasting regular videos of himself sitting in his car, addressing his supposed public support group that is regularly failing to show up. Carey claims that his actions are designed to help the homeless but they neither challenge the cause of the problem nor supply relief, for example through delivering free food or clothing services. Oh yes, he did have a fundraising appeal but where did the money go? Carey was also at one of the early Irish Yellow Vest gatherings on Custom House Quay, Dublin, where he was videoed by their own people behaving aggressively towards a tiny group of antifascists who were present there, also attempting to snatch one of their flags.

This is Carey who started his Irish fascist career with Irish Yellow Vests and then branched off to form his own anti-vaxxer group protesting at the Garden of Remembrance, Dublin, allegedly “to help the homeless”.

A similar publicity stunt was a supposed “walk from east to west” by another anti-vaxxer, Alan Sweeney, who was raising money “for the homeless”. His call for people to join him seems to have resulted only in one woman who was doing it, she said, “for the mentally ill”. Among wide disbelief that he is walking all the way, his sparse videos showed him occasionally walking or, in at least one case, having a confrontation with staff in a shop who didn’t want him in there without wearing a protective face covering. On that occasion, it is the woman “doing it for the mentally ill” who is videoed by Sweeney while she gets served in the shop twice without a mask and goes in a third time to get the confrontation she is seeking.

While they manage to keep both staff (apparently brothers) in pointless argument, what seems to be the no-nonsense father comes along and pushes them out the door. No physical reaction from the bold Sweeney, who was videoed last year aiming a kick at and spitting on a disabled woman on the ground, an antifascist protester who had been knocked down and kicked by another nazi warrior.

Alan Sweeney attacks disabled antifascist woman who has been assaulted by one of his fascist mates in Dublin (and bringing shame on to the Tricolour); clip taken from video. (See Sources)

All that is reasonably well known and much of it in the public record though it might take a little digging to unearth it. But last weekend the Far-Right went beyond pretending to support the homeless to actually pretending to be homeless themselves.

CONVOY & RALLY AGAINST THE LOCKDOWN

On Sunday (10th January 2021), QAnon called for an anti-vaxxer2 “anti-lockdown” convoy from Belfast to Dublin. QAnon is one of the negationist groups who proclaim that the pandemic is either not real or not serious, that the (rather insufficient) preventative measures brought in by the Government are just intended to restrict the freedom of assembly for other purposes. They also have a range of other conspiracy beliefs that include, according to which individual is speaking, Jewish financiers or the Chinese Communist Party or Millionaire George Soros being behind it all and financing their opponents, Republicans, Socialists, “Antifa” etc. Or that all are in the service of paedophiles. And that the vaccines are going to inject nanomachines into people’s bloodstream which will allow the Government to control them.

There are a number of QAnon groups around the world and they are especially prominent in the USA, where they have been enthusiastic Trump supporters and were among those who stormed the Capitol building just recently (and where the woman shot by police was a duped by QAnon supporter3).

Anti-Vaxxers harassing (and undermining health advice) on the Dublin LUAS system last August, free from any Garda restriction and no action despite evidence.

On the day of this intended great “convoy”, Covid 19 reported cases within the Irish state were just starting to fall again, at 153,000 with 2,532 reported deaths.

Advertised to start with meeting at Dublin Airport at noon, the anti-vaxxers were going to head north to Belfast and then swing around to come into Dublin with a number of stops along the way to meet at the GPO, a regular weekly rallying point of QAnon in the past. The bringing in of individuals and small groups of people from different parts of the country has been a regular feature of Far-Right rallies to make them seem as having much more public support than is actually the case. Despite current travel restrictions being in place as part of the tardy effort of the Government to prevent or reduce the spread of Covid19 infection, currently at 5 kilometres for exercise, and no outside activities to be organised, the anti-vaxxers clearly had no fear of their convoy and rally failing to attract their supporters nor of any interference by the State.

Although anti-virus contagion measures on a number of occasions have put travel restrictions in place, until now the Far-Right have been able to travel about freely, and assemble unmasked without social distancing. On one occasion in Dublin they marched to the Garden of Remembrance (dedicated to the martyrs who fought for an independent Ireland) and chanted in triumphant mockery “Where’s your Lockdown?”

But last Sunday was a different case.

IMPERSONATING THE HOMELESS

Last Sunday, the Gardaí (police force of the Irish State) had roadblocks out and were stopping traffic to question the drivers on their starting point and destination. The British colonial police force, the PSNI did too and turned up to a score of the anti-vaxxers back at Newry. On the quays in Dublin, Gardaí checkpoints stopped a number of other anti-vaxxers and fascists, such as Alan Sweeney4, who had himself videoed in a short argument from his car refusing to tell a Garda where he was bound or the reason for his journey (which at one point he claimed was for “family”) or to give his address, which he quickly did when threatened with arrest and a hefty fine. Later, on foot, while shouting at Gardaí carrying out other checks, he claimed he was “of no fixed abode” and “homeless” before giving his address, again under threat of arrest. Alan Sweeney does have a home, which is in the lovely area of Kinvara in Co. Galway (sorry, Kinvara but we know he does not represent you) and is 213.3 km from Dublin city centre.

Having reached the GPO without making most of the scheduled stops, Dolores Webster, one of the leaders of the QAnon group regularly rallying there who broadcasts videos under the nom de guerre of “Dee Wall” (and known to her opponents by other names such as “Deemented”, “Off Dee Wall” and “the Screech”) was approached by Gardaí. She claimed she was homeless and was waiting for the homeless feeding service5 to set up but eventually she and her coterie ran out of excuses and had to disperse.

May 2020 Anti-Vaxxers protesting lockdown, Dee Wall (centre photo) with microphone. (Image sourced: Internet)

There are an estimated in excess of 8,000 people without a permanent home in the 26-County State, only part of which were the 1,117 families who accessed emergency accommodation in October 2020, including 2,642 children. The use of the homeless as a cover for fascist and racist mobilisation, as a pretence for targeting migrants and asylum seekers, for fund-raising and, in the end, as a cover for violating contagion prevention measures, shows the total cynicism of the Far-Right. Furthermore it exposes their total lack of any concern or feeling of social solidarity for the victims of the capitalist system, in addition to their complete lack of any intention of resolving the real crisis of homelessness.

End.

Evening free food service queue including children outside the GPO building Dublin (yes, the same place the anti-vaxxers choose to have their daytime protest). (Image sourced: Internet)

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Go raibh maith agaibh to a number of people who supplied information for this article, including the Ireland Against Fascism FB page: https://www.facebook.com/IrelandAgainstFascism/

FOOTNOTES

1 Glen Miller is a prominent islamophobe and Ben Gilroy has often been a speaker for it, when not being a self-publicist.

2A collective term for people opposed to vaccines but in particular those campaigning against their use.

3Ashli Babbit, a former member of the US military, her QAnon support confirmed by posts on her FB page and reported interviews with family and friends.

4Sweeney has regularly been associated with the fascist National Party headed by Justin Barrett.

5There are feeding services for the homeless and poor people in hostel accommodation etc provided at the GPO by voluntary organisations, religious and secular, every week. The General Post Office is a grand building in the middle of Dublin’s main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street and was the HQ of the insurgents in the 1916 Rising.

REFERENCES

Woman shot by police during Capitol riot was a QAnon supporter: https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/01/07/dc-riots-ashli-babbitt-killed-capitol-attack-military-veteran/6577488002/

Leadership of Irish Yellow Vests: https://www.thejournal.ie/yellow-vest-ireland-4440420-Jan2019/

Alan Sweeney assault on disabled woman on the ground: https://twitter.com/gemmentedod1/status/1292947424911204361?lang=gl

Level 5 travel restrictions: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/2dc71-level-5/

Covid19 infection and death statistics on Sunday 9th January: https://www.google.com/search?q=covid+19+statistics+ireland+on+9th+January+2021&oq=covid+19+statistics+ireland+on+9th+January+2021&aqs=chrome..69i57.54134j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Statistics of recent homelessness: https://www.focusireland.ie/resource-hub/about-homelessness/ and https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-cp5hpi/cp5hpi/hpi/