Homelessness causes terrible trauma to any family but it is hurting children the most, writes Sr Stanislaus Kennedy
We can all take home for granted a lot of the time. But deep down we all know what it means. Our home is the foundation stone of our personal and family life. It is where we can relax after a long day. It’s where we belong and feel safe, especially during Christmas.
The shocking truth of this homeless crisis is that three families will lose their home in Ireland every day. It is truly appalling and there’s now a record total of 10,514 people homeless. Recent figures also show that 12% of children in families currently supported by Focus Ireland’s family services were born into homelessness. I have never seen it this bad and to think children will be homeless at Christmas is difficult to accept.
Being homeless causes terrible trauma to any family or individual but it is hurting children the most. We are seeing this through our own work supporting these families. Babies are living in tiny hotel rooms where they don’t even have enough room to learn how to crawl properly.
The Government’s response has been that it takes time to end this crisis. These children don’t have time. They are damaged every day while homeless. Focus Ireland does not stand on the side-lines, we make a difference. In partnership with the State and our supporters, we helped over 1,200 families to escape from homelessness and to secure a home in the last two years.
However, the sheer scale of the housing and homelessness crisis means that the number of people homeless continues to rise despite this great work.
Families and individuals are losing their homes as they can’t afford to pay the rent or the house is being sold or repossessed. They have been called ‘The new homeless’. That is the people who become homeless for purely economic reasons.
Focus Ireland believes that as a country we have a duty to look after all our citizens, especially those who are most vulnerable. We must cherish all of our children equally and ensure that no child suffers from being homeless.
As individuals, we cannot change the world, but we can change ourselves – and that is how the world starts to get changed. One way we can start to make a difference is to speak up for what is right and what is true. This takes courage.
The current situation is that we have to raise over 40% of our annual budget through fundraising and donations to keep our services going”
It takes courage to disagree with government policies in a certain sort of polite company. It takes courage to stand up for immigrants or people who are homeless at a certain type of party. It takes courage, but it is worth doing, because that is how we can gradually win over hearts and minds.
Christmas is about the birth of one who risked everything. Jesus set no store by personal comfort zones. He had no interest in status. He asked the hard questions and he stood up for the ‘wrong’ people.
Hard as it may be socially, there are great spiritual rewards for being willing to take up our responsibilities, for living with integrity and free of guises, for becoming the women and the men we are capable of being, spiritual adults, free.
You don’t have to be a Christian to believe in these values or to want to help build community. I believe to do this we must reach out to others. A kind word, or a hand offering help, not only helps people who are lonely and in need, it also helps the person offering the help.
We work hard to do this as we continue to develop realistic policy solutions to help end homelessness. Focus Ireland also work through our services across the country so we are there when people need us the most. This amazing work is done in partnership with the State, as well as through kind support from our generous donors.
The current situation is that we have to raise over 40% of our annual budget through fundraising and donations to keep our services going.
This means we really need public support at Christmas now more than ever so we can be there when families and individuals need help the most. A total of 89 cents from every euro received is spent directly on work to combat and prevent homelessness.
People can donate at www.focusireland.ie or 1850 204 205.
Our work will continue with your kind support because this crisis must be ended.
Everyone deserves to have a place that they can call home.
Sr Stanislaus Kennedy is Life President and Founder of Focus Ireland.