'Mammy what are we going to do?', mother tells of heartbreak after six kids sleep in Garda station

Latest: A young mum who slept in a Garda station in Dublin with six of her children has said she is heartbroken.

Margaret Cash, 28, was forced to sleep in Tallaght Garda Station due to lack of emergency homeless accommodation on Wednesday night.

“I was heartbroken that I couldn’t do more for them as a mother, I was ashamed to see my kids splattered round a station floor like that,” she said.

Margaret Cash with six of her seven children (Aoife Moore/PA)

Ms Cash and her seven children – Johnny, 11, Tommy, 10, Rebecca, nine, Miley, seven, Jim, four, Rocky, two, and Andy, one – have been in emergency accommodation for over a year after her landlord went bankrupt and their house was repossessed.

She has been in different one-night emergency family accommodations ever since.

This is Ms Cash’s third time being sent to a Garda station with nowhere to go.

She circulated pictures of her children sleeping there on social media after she said she could not take any more.

One of the children sleeps in a Dublin Garda station (Handout image)

Ms Cash says the year has taken its toll on the children and her own mental health.

“The kids know they’re homeless, they kept saying: ‘Mammy what are we going to do?’ I had to tell them the Garda station, because it was either that or sleep under some cardboard outside.

“The little ones were scared, and worried about who was going to come in, and we didn’t have any blankets until midnight.

“The kids slept for a couple of hours, but were awake again at 6am.

“It’s so stressful to not know where you’re going to put your kids to bed at night.

“You’ll never know what it’s like until it happens to you, anyone can be homeless, it can happen so quickly.”

The Government and Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy have come under intense pressure since the photos were published and housing waiting lists continue to rise.

Ms Cash says she feels abandoned by the Government.

“I hope and pray Eoghan Murphy’s family never have to go through this.

“The Government don’t care, their families are safe and warm, why would they care about us?

“I feel like before now no one wanted to know, we’re swept under the carpet.

“It’s hard to think you have to put it on social media for people to wake up.

“I’m not the only person like this, other children slept in Garda stations last night too, that’s the truth, there’s hundreds of families like mine.

“In emergency accommodation, I’d see lots of families with kids, we’d walk out in the morning and spend all day waiting until we can go to the next place.

“I phone hotels and hostels every day, but with family our size where can we get a hotel that will take in nine of us?

“I eat out breakfast, lunch and dinner, and wash my clothes in a wash house.

“We’re expected to walk the streets all day, or go to playgrounds, my kids are sick of playgrounds.”

A baby at the Garda station (Handout image)

Currently none of the children have been enrolled for school in September as due to their housing situation, it is impossible to know what school they would be able to travel to every day.

The Pope’s arrival in Dublin has been a source of anxiety for many homeless advocates as the influx of tourists and visitors could pack out many hotels that are usually used for emergency accommodation.

Homeless families face being moved out of the capital to neighbouring counties.

“It’s not fair, the only bit of support and family you have is in Dublin and they can move you away – is life not hard enough?”

Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) said they were dealing with unprecedented numbers.

“The DRHE is very aware of the difficult circumstances that families experiencing homelessness have to face.

“On the night of August 8, an unprecedented number of families presented out of hours seeking emergency accommodation.

“The Family Homeless Action Team were actively engaged with 10 families, who were unable to source their own accommodation.”

- Press Association

5.25pm: Government needs to wake up to realities of homelessness, says mother of six kids who slept in Garda station

The government needs to wake up and see what's going on, says a homeless woman who spent last night in Tallaght Garda Station with her six children.

Margaret Cash and her children were referred to the Garda station after emergency accommodation could not be found for her family.

It has emerged the Tallaght mum turned down an offer of accommodation in County Meath yesterday, as it would have resulted in splitting up her family.

Margaret Cash. Pic: RTÉ

"It was shocking, it was disgusting and it should never have happened," Ms Cash said.

She said that the experience was frightening for the children and that they were afraid.

Ms Cash, who has been homeless for almost a year, hopes she can find a permanent place for her and her children.

"My hope is that I'll get a place to live, that my kids will have somewhere to live, but that's all I can hope for.

"I don't know if that's going to happen or not."

Margaret has this message to the government on behalf of the 1,700 families currently homeless in Ireland: "Wake up, smell the coffee and see what's really going on.

"There are hundreds of families like me around Dublin, hundreds of us.

"I hope that none of them ever have to go through what we're going through. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

"That's my message to the government."

The family is now being looked after by the team at Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH).

Brian McLoughlin, Head of Communications at ICHH, says they will have somewhere to stay tonight.

4.30pm: 'I feel disgusted as a mother' says mum of six kids who slept in Garda station

A homeless woman who spent the night in a Garda station with six of her children, says she feels disgusted she cannot do more for her children.

Margaret Cash was referred to Tallaght Garda station after emergency accommodation could not be found for her family.

Photos have been published of the mother and her children aged 1 to 11 sprawled across metal chairs in the waiting room.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive says there was a record number of families presenting out of hours last night looking for emergency accommodation.

Speaking to Newstalk, Ms Cash said: "I feel disgusted as a mother that there's not more that I can do for them.

"I feel horrible, I feel like crying now. It's just horrible, it's very, very hard.

"It's so frightening, it's unreal. Until you're in that situation you'll never know what it's like.

"The garda station and the Garda were like 'Well what do they expect us to do? We have nowhere to put you'.

It was horrible. It was disgusting. It was disgraceful. I just sat up all night watching them.

"The kids felt scruffy, they felt dirty. They didn't have anywhere to wash, they didn't have anywhere to do anything."

There are calls for politicians to come back from their holidays to sort the situation out.

"We've had families last night that walked the streets up until 10 o'clock waiting on referrals for accommodation," said Anthony Flynn of Inner City Helping Homeless.

"That's unacceptable for any child, that's unacceptable for any mother to have to go through that torment.

"So we're asking for the Dáil to be recalled.

"We want the Minister out and we want them back working in regard to the situation."

2.18pm: Homeless crisis reaches 'new low' after photo of six kids sleeping in garda station surfaces

Activists are calling photos of a young homeless family sleeping in a Dublin Garda Station "a new low".

Campaigners are worried that the homeless situation is about to get worse with the Pope's visit.

Tens of thousands of tourists are expected to descend on the capital later this month, putting even more pressure on hotel accommodation where many families are staying temporarily.

It comes after six children aged from one to 11 years old were forced to sleep on plastic seating in Tallaght Garda Station last night as all emergency lines for homeless shelters and local hotels reported they were full.

Father Peter McVerry says there does not appear to be any alternative arrangements for those who are homeless.

He said:

I'm not aware of any plan, and if there is a plan it should have been put into operation last night for this particular family. I think we could simply be overwhelmed in two weeks' time when the Pope comes.

The mother told RTÉ today: “You can’t understand what it’s like until it happens to you.”

Sinn Féin Deputy Eoin O Broin slammed the Government’s inaction over the issue.

He said: “For the first time in a number of months homeless services providers were forced to refer seven families to Garda stations last night due to lack of available emergency accommodation.

“Of the seven families accommodation was eventually found for four, with one family sleeping in Tallaght Garda Station and two more families sleeping rough.

“As the holiday season reaches its peak and with the added pressure of the Pope’s visit to Ireland many hotels are withdrawing their rooms from emergency accommodation.

“It has become increasingly clear that Government has no actual strategy for tackling family homelessness.

“No adult or child should be forced to sleep in a Garda station or a van for lack of emergency accommodation.

“If Government focused more on preventing these families from becoming homeless and increasing the supply of social housing to get families out of homelessness then last night’s ugly scenes would not be repeated.”

Labour Party housing spokeswoman Jan O’Sullivan TD called on the Government to do more to tackle the crisis.

Ms O’Sullivan said: “It is deeply disturbing to hear reports about homeless children having to sleep in Garda stations.

“This is not the first time we have heard stories like this and unless something is done to put children at the heart of our State’s response to homelessness, it won’t be the last.”

Fianna Fáil's spokesperson on Housing, Darragh O’Brien, said that it is an "all too regular occurrence".

He said: “The idea that a young mother and her six children would be forced to present themselves to their local Garda Station is distressing but sadly, this is not the first time this has happened.

“As this crisis has worsened under Fine Gael’s leadership, more and more families have been left with no choice but to present themselves to a Garda station to get rest for a night because they have nowhere else to go.

“To have no stable accommodation or nowhere else to go represents a colossal failure of the State. For any parent or guardian to be put in the position to present with their loved ones to a Garda station for accommodation shows the impossible decisions people are faced with under this Government.

“The images that have emerged this morning of some of the children trying to rest on seats in the station’s waiting room are deeply upsetting.

"Emphasising the fact that this family of seven were given a breakfast at the station as though it’s some kind of consolation is sad in itself."

"Last July we were assured by the Minister that the practice of leaving families in short-term hotel accommodation would end; that no one would be kept in hotels. Over 12 months on and there isn't even enough emergency hostel accommodation to keep up with demand. We're now relying on the support of our Garda stations to take in homeless families.

“If we didn’t already know before now, Ireland’s housing crisis is destroying lives. Fine Gael’s policies on housing are denying these children’s basic human rights."

2.25pm: 'We don't know where some homeless families end up,' says activist after 6 kids pictured sleeping in garda station

The alarming number of children forced on a nightly basis to seek emergency accommodation with their families will be Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy's legacy, a homelessness activist has said.

Anthony Flynn from Inner City Helping Homeless, who last night shared a picture posted by one mother to Facebook of her six children asleep in a garda station, said he was appalled by the numbers without a home to go to, and especially by the impact on children in those families.

Sixteen children slept with their families in Dublin garda stations last night. Anthony (pictured below) says it is the worst he has seen after five years working with homeless people in Dublin.

"I had a 13-year-old girl here with her mother last night so embarrassed and distressed to be sitting here looking for accommodation," he said.

"These families are exhausted and frustrated, waiting for their phone to ring to tell them whether they have a bed for the night. And even if they do get a callback, they don't know where in the city a place will be found for them - it could be on the other side of the city.

"And then you can get a call saying nothing could be found, and you have to go to a garda station. Some families can't face that, and we don't know where they end up.

"How are parents supposed to rear their children in a situation like that?"

"This is not the society we should be bringing our kids up in...We've allowed this to become a norm; this is going to be (Housing Minister) Eoghan Murphy's legacy."

He said the working mother-of-two in one of the families that his agency helped to find a place to sleep last night works until 4pm every day, and can only start to look for a place to sleep then.

He said families are sitting in cafes and fast-food outlets until 9pm at night waiting for their phones to ring. If state agencies can't help, they turn to bodies like Inner City Helping Homeless.

"We're not seeing an end to this crisis...We need to be results-driven and the Minister needs to be accountable," said Anthony, who said there was an over-reliance by the Government on the private rental market to provide emergency beds.

He added that the numbers of tourists in Dublin mean the B&B and hotel accommodation that provides a release valve at other times of the year, is largely booked up and unavailable during the summer. Sporting events and this month's Papal visit will put further pressure on short-term accommodation in the city, with a knock-on effect on homeless families' efforts to find emergency beds.

Of commentary about the picture released last night that two of the children were wearing school uniforms, Anthony said this wasn't the case, and that two of the young brothers were actually wearing matching blue jumpers with a logo on the front.

9.23am: Gardaí buy hot breakfast for mother and six kids forced to sleep in Garda station

A photo of children sleeping in the waiting room of Tallaght Garda Station in Dublin last night is going viral.

The six kids, aged from one to 11, are photographed by their mother lying across metal chairs without blankets after being advised to seek shelter there.

Anthony Flynn from Inner City Helping Homeless says eight other families were also urged to do the same.

Gardaí have confirmed a homeless family of seven took shelter in one of their Dublin stations last night.

Gardaí said in a statement: "A young mother and her six children (aged from 11 years to 1 year) presented at Tallaght GS during the night as they had nowhere to go.

"Members of An Garda Síochána tried all the emergency lines in relation to homeless shelter and no accommodation was located, a number of local hotels were also phoned.

"The family were cared for during the night by the members working and received a hot breakfast this morning in Tallaght GS. The family have now left the Garda station and are on the way to South Dublin Co-Council, Housing Department."

Mr Flynn said: "Well the mother of the family last night posted the picture herself from Tallaght Garda Station of herself and her family of seven that were actually referred to Tallaght Garda Station last night.

"Alongside that, there were eight other families that were referred to Garda Stations because of a lack of accommodation."

Mr Flynn posted the photo on Facebook, saying: "This is what this country has succumbed to, this is how homeless services are treating our children.

"I’m in utter shock, seven children sleep in one city Garda Station and 8 families referred to stations as nowhere to send them."

He also said he has never felt as low during his time as an activist.

He said: "It's absolutely shocking and appaling that anybody would have to sleep in a Garda station but in particular the fact that six children would be sent to a Garda Station.

"Yesterday was one of the worst days I've seen in five years in homeless services.

"The presentations yesterday, on average we're having three families a day turning up here at the door looking for assistance because no accommodation is being made available through the normal avenues."

Housing charities have called it a "disgrace" that families have been forced to do this.

Focus Ireland Advocacy Manager, Roughan Mac Namara, said: “The fact that some families had nowhere to sleep last night except in a garda station is totally wrong and unacceptable and the responsibility for this lies with the failure of Government policy to adequately address the scale and urgency of the crisis. Focus Ireland is working hard with DRHE to support families and help them when they become homeless.

"It is a disgrace to see children who are homeless having to try to sleep on chairs in a Garda station."

"While last night was exceptional it was part of an escalating crisis for families that Focus Ireland has been repeatedly warning the Government about for over two years.”

He said that homelessness services are "stretched to breaking point" due to the "constant rise" in the numbers becoming homeless every month.

He said: "We need more homes to end this crisis - not more hotel rooms. Homelessness can be prevented and ended if the right decisions are taken.

"There is much good work being done and we helped over 1,000 households to leave homelessness last year.

"However, the harsh reality is that at least 3 families have become homeless every day this year so far and this clearly shows the Government strategy to tackle and prevent homelessness is failing.”

    They outlined three actions to cut the number of families becoming homeless

  • Introduce measures to prevent buy-to-let landlord from evicting tenants in order to sell up or move in family members.
  • Specific family homelessness strategy including a commitment that no family will be left without shelter and a cast iron deadline that no family will be homeless for more than six months.
  • Revisit proposals to make the thousands of vacant properties around the country available.

The Dublin Regional Homeless Executive said they are "very aware of the difficult circumstances that families experiencing homelessness have to face".

They said: "On the night of the 8th August 2018 an unprecedented number of families presented out of hours seeking emergency accommodation.

"We were notified by the Family Homeless Action Team that they were actively engaged with 10 families, who were unable to source their own accommodation.

"Our Central Placement Team were able to source emergency accommodation for five of the families, one family refused the offer of accommodation, two of the families were linked back in with their region (outside of Dublin) and two did not seek further assistance."

Most Read in Ireland