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Homeless kids worried Santa can’t find them

Homeless children around the country are worried Santa will not be able to find them this Christmas, writes Joyce Fegan.

"A lot of the kids are wondering how Santa will find them on Christmas Eve and others are asking how can he come down the chimney if there isn’t one in their hub,” said Freda Hughes from the Irish Housing Network (IHN).

The IHN was one of the three groups involved in the occupation of Apollo House last Christmas.

The group held a “very large” Christmas party for some of Ireland’s 3,194 homeless children last Sunday.

“It was so big and so many people showed up that we ended up handing out 50 hi-vis jackets to cover the volunteers that were needed,” Ms Hughes told the Irish Examiner.

She said parents at the party explained how their children were worried about Santa’s ability to find them.

Parents also said that Christmas dinner would not be a possibility as there are no cooking facilities in emergency accommodation.

The IHN said the housing crisis has only worsened since the high-profile take-over of Apollo House last Christmas.

“For the first time in a long time, people could take meaningful, practical action against the State’s shocking disregard for public well-being,” said Ms Hughes. “One year on, we would like to illustrate the situation now faced by those residents and activists as the housing crisis continues to worsen.”

The Simon Communities releases its annual report today, which shows that there has been an increase of more than a third in the number of people using the charity’s service in just one year.

The charity worked with 11,005 people in 2016.

“While we have seen some move on to tenancies in the capital, in the absence of social and affordable housing or an accessible private rental sector, the majority have nowhere to go,” said Niamh Randall, spokeswoman for the charity.

She said the public cares deeply about the issue and wants immediate action.

“The huge public concern about these issues is clear to us every day in our work in the Simon Communities; the support we receive is humbling. People want action,” said Ms Randall.

She called for the Government to address the issue of empty homes around the country and said it is impossible for human beings to function without shelter.

“Just under 190,000 homes lie empty in Ireland, more than enough to house people living in emergency accommodation,” said Ms Randall.

“Almost 11% of total housing stock is vacant in Ireland, almost twice the level expected in a functioning housing market. The potential to deliver much-needed housing supply quickly is significant.

“The Government were due to publish the Empty Homes Strategy before the summer; however, at the time of writing, that strategy remains unpublished.”

Yesterday, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy confirmed that, this Christmas, there will be more than 200 additional permanent emergency beds, with wraparound medical and other required supports in place for those who are homeless and need help.

This story originally appeared in the Irish Examiner.