Studying in toilets: Life in emergency accommodation for young people in Cork 

Studying in toilets: Life in emergency accommodation for young people in Cork 

A number of second-level students in Cork are being forced to study for state exams in toilets.

A NUMBER of second-level students in Cork are being forced to study for state exams in toilets due to limited space in emergency accommodation settings.

The revelation came from Saint Vincent De Paul's Regional Vice President, Paddy O'Flynn, who spoke out about the issues facing young people in emergency accommodation.

"Much of the time," Mr O'Flynn said, "a young person has to attempt to study in cramped conditions with younger siblings.

“Our little group visiting those in emergency accommodation are finding young people struggling to study in bathrooms where, in many cases, there is insufficient light and heat. 

“You can imagine a hotel room with an en suite. There might be three or four children in the same room and access can be limited."

As of November 2019 there was a total of 119 families living in emergency accommodation in the South West Region

Jadya O'Flynn, Ballincollig at the housing protest march organised by the Right2Housing group in December. Picture; David Creedon
Jadya O'Flynn, Ballincollig at the housing protest march organised by the Right2Housing group in December. Picture; David Creedon

Mr O'Flynn reiterated how damaging living like this can be.

"It's stifling and psychologically very damaging for children,” he said. 

“We shouldn’t forget that there are some young people who have been completely dislocated from their previous school,” Mr O’Flynn said.

“When you think that someone can lose a house somewhere and end up in emergency accommodation miles away it can be doubly terrible.”

South West Regional Fundraising Officer, Anne McKernan emphasised the restrictions being placed on families.

“We all know from our own houses how washing can build up,” Anne said.

“Usually, there is no space in the wardrobe so the room will also be taken up with bags of clothes, leaving even less room.”

Mr O’Flynn said requests for help from families in emergency accommodation are a relatively new phenomenon.

“This is a new thing we’ve never done before but we felt the need to respond to families in emergency accommodation,” he said. “We wouldn’t have been speaking about this last year because the need didn’t exist but now we are responding to it. What is happening in Cork just reflects what is going on nationally.”

The charity has been working with those struggling in other areas as well.

“We’re currently seeing a surge in demand for reconnection to gas and electricity,” Mr O’Flynn said.

“People were unable to pay for bills in December and couldn’t cope with high bills resulting in threats to disconnect.

“We have special arrangements made with the utility company whereby if the client agrees to certain actions we can have the gas and electricity reconnected at a minimum cost.”

The Cork man extended his gratitude to everyone who supported SVP during 2019.

“It was an exceptionally busy December with 1,628 calls for help in the three weeks leading up to Christmas,” he said. “2,500 hampers were also distributed.

“We like to think we made a difference to a lot of families in Cork. Corporate and individual donations were outstanding.

“Our car draw drew €180,000 which will be earmarked for education-an area that has become a huge area of concern.”

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