Over the past few years, the Conference is meeting more and more homeless families. Each week, she and co-volunteers visit the families. Parents with young children living in one room in a local B&B or Hotel. Each story is different; some had been served notice on their old accommodation as their landlords wanted to sell, others evicted due to rent arrears.
You might say, "isn't' it great"? "Haven't they a roof over their heads". This is true, they are warm and have shelter - but it's not a home. They have no cooking facilities in their rooms, no fridges, nowhere to wash their clothes. Breakfast is not provided in a lot of accommodation. Their Mums/Dads cannot make a sandwich for their school lunches. They cannot even make up a baby's bottle. The kids have nowhere to play or do their homework. There is no privacy. It's transient accommodation, to say the least. The families don't know from one week to the next where they will be. One mother said to Yvonne that she told her children she won the Hotel stay in a raffle. How sad is that!
Yvonne is concerned about the families, especially the children. What toll is this having on them? How will this affect them developmentally in the future? What about their education? They are accommodated miles from their schools. Their schools are probably not even aware of what's going on. The parents are probably too embarrassed to tell the Teachers what's causing absenteeism. The children are losing out on so much. There is no normality in their lives. Everyone is cramped into one room. The Hotels do not want them to use their facilities or to mingle with other guests. The parents feel that they have let down their partners and families, that they have failed to provide for them. The lack of adequate interim and permanent accommodation is causing unknown stress and mental health issues.
Yvonne finds it hard to disengage from these visits. She goes home to her own cosy house, where there is full, and plenty while these families are struggling, enduring this homelessness. Yvonne tries to put the homeless families to the back of her mind until the next week, but they are always niggling there.
She recently met a neighbour who had travelled to California on his holidays. What intrigued him was how the Californians seem to accept homelessness on their streets. They appear to ignore it and go on with their everyday lives. Yvonne thought to herself. "Well! Aren't we the same in Ireland, we are ignoring our homeless too".
In the media, homelessness is seen as a Dublin problem only. Well, it's not! Communities are not even aware that it is an issue in their own hometowns. Our homeless are trying to go about their daily lives, anonymously, privately, without drawing attention to themselves. They don't want themselves or their children to be put in the spotlight. They just want a home.
Deep down Yvonne cannot forget those children. She tries to remain detached.
"Detached” she thinks "- a detached or semi-detached...isn't that the solution."
We seriously need to ask ourselves. What can be done? Who has the vision? How can we resolve this? We need action now.
Think of our 3000+ homeless children.