Mother and six children sleep in Dublin garda station due to lack of accommodation

The DRHE has confirmed that the only available accommodation would have split up the family

Updated 17:30

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive has confirmed that the only accommodation available for a mother who eventually slept in a Garda station with her six children last night would have split the family up.

Pictures published online of Margaret Cash's children trying to sleep on chairs at Tallaght Garda Station last night have been described as "a new low" homelessness activists.

Inner City Helping Homeless said 10 families were referred to Garda Stations by State bodies - with 16 children forced to sleep at stations across the city because they had nowhere else to go.

After the director of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive Eileen Gleeson said Ms Cash had been offered accommodation, the Dublin mother said the accommodation was in County Meath and could only facilitate five of her children.

In a statement this evening, the DRHE confirmed this was the case.

"The DRHE have an arrangement in place for families that present out of hours in an emergency situations to be supported by the Focus Ireland Family Homeless Action Team," it said.

"They have confirmed that this family were offered emergency accommodation in Meath at 9pm last night but the family didn’t take this up as it would have resulted in the splitting up of the family." 

On the Hard Shoulder this evening, Brian Mc Loughlin, head of communications at Inner City Helping Homeless, said the family has somewhere to stay tonight.

"They have been in our office all afternoon today," he said.

"We have looked after them with food and supplies and a bit of support but most importantly, we have sorted accommodation for them until at least Monday.

"That accommodation has been sourced by us ourselves; it is non-Government funded and it is volunteer-based.

"We are funding it ourselves just to guarantee that they are not in a situation where they are in a police station later on tonight."

Margaret Cash, who was forced to sleep at Tallaght Garda Statoin with her six young children last night. Image: Henry McKean

Ms Cash, presented at Tallaght Garda Station with her children, aged from one to 11-years-old, after it became clear she had no other option.

Gardaí said officers tried all the homeless shelter emergency lines and a number of local hotels - however no accommodation could be found..

The family were cared for during the night and received a hot breakfast on Thursday morning in the Garda station.

This morning, they attended South Dublin County Council's Housing Department before going to Inner City Helping Homeless.

Photo of the young children trying to sleep on steel chairs Garda station waiting room have sparked anger and shock this afternoon.

ICHH chief Anthony Flynn said it is "totally unacceptable" to have families sleeping in Garda Stations - called for the Dáil to be recalled to deal with the issue.

"16 children sleeping in Garda Stations is an indictment on Government, an indictment on council and an indictment on those that are supposed to be providing the services and putting these people into accommodation and ensuring their accommodation needs are met," he said.

"The fact of the matter is that there is a major breakdown in communication right across the system at the moment and everybody needs to sit across the table and address this head on."

"Absurd"

Meanwhile, longtime homelessness activist Fr Peter McVerry warned that the Government will be judged on its response to the homeless crisis at the next election.

"We have the fastest growing economy in the EU and we have this situation - and it is probably going to increase," he said.

"It is absolutely absurd; it highlights the fact Government policy isn't working, but they won't admit it isn't working.

"Until they admit it isn't working and try and do something else, we are not going to get anywhere."

"Unprecedented"

In a statement the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) said an "unprecedented number of families presented out of hours seeking emergency accommodation" last night.

It said the Focus Ireland Family Homeless Action Team "actively engaged with 10 families, who were unable to source their own accommodation."

Accommodation was found for five of them - while "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."

Additional reporting Michael Staines ...