The closure of a Dublin hostel has renewed the ongoing conversation around homelessness in the city and emergency accommodation.
The latest figures from the Department of Housing show that there are more than 8,300 people homeless in Ireland and, sadly 2,326 of those are children.
Charities, emergency accommodation hubs and, indeed, Gardaí are doing their part to help these young people find a home – one such location looking to help those in need was LeFroy House on Eden Quay, described as "a homeless hostel for teenagers".
The Nightlight service at LeFroy House has been operating for over 20 years, providing emergency accommodation and food to vulnerable young people. It provided hostel services for up to seven teenagers and provides support flats to 17- and 18-year olds.
Nightlight was until recently operated by the Salvation Army, while the supported flats were managed by Tusla, both of which have withdrawn support for these services.
“The Salvation Army operates six major residential centres in Dublin, helping over 200 homeless adults," Malcolm Page, Assistant Director of Homelessness Services for The Salvation Army said.
"In addition, we offer a specialist emergency accommodation service for about 80 families with young children. The Salvation Army will continue to operate all these services, with over 400 beds in use every night in its centres.
“However, in recent days we have informed staff in the LeFroy House facility in Dublin, which currently accommodates 7 people on short-term stays, that it will close this facility next year.
“Our aim is to enable the small number of young people who use this facility to be accommodated safely and securely in other support services and we will work with Tusla on transition arrangements. The centre will continue to operate for the coming months to make this as smooth as possible.
“This was a difficult decision but to stress, the proposed closure of LeFroy has no impact on other Salvation Army operations in Ireland."
It's been reported that the shelter had to close "mainly due to funding" despite original owner Helen LeFroy – who left the location to the Salvation Army – saying that the hostel may be closed only when homelessness itself is no longer.
Staff were informed in December that the house was due to close. The house has now been boarded up.
Speaking on The Pat Kenny Show, reporter Josh Crosbie spoke to the people affected:
"For a lot of young people, like when the guards ever removed a 12-year-old at four in the morning, LeFroy was always there," one social worker commented.
"More has to be done," a man commented. "There will be more teenagers living on the streets in the future, sleeping in doorways instead."
Speaking to a man who has been in and out of homelessness for ten years, Crosbie shared the realities of sleeping rough in the city centre:
"I'm from Cork City originally but I've been living between Dublin and Belfast the last ten years," the unnamed man said. "I sleep in a tent. Didn't need any of the services, didn't use them. I don't do anything heavy. I smoke a bit of weed but that's it."
The unnamed homeless man later explained that his living situation happened by way of a number of traumatic incidents in his use; he was sexually abused as a child and also witnessed someone he was close to getting raped.
"I have a lot of trauma going on in my head," he said. "A lot of flashbacks. It is very tough, don't get me wrong. It is impossible sometimes. I've gone a week or two without eating food. Nowhere to wash my clothes or my self. The abuse definitely contributed to my life this way.
"Things have to change. You're going to see 14 and 15-year-olds sleeping in doorways, that's not going to go away."
Photo by Yichuan Cao/Sipa USA