There has been a lot of talk about homelessness in the last two weeks, with the Taoiseach claiming the number of homeless men, women and children in Ireland is low by international standards.
The reality is sadly very different. Last Christmas, I wrote in The Gazette about the 2,400 children who were homeless.
This has now shot up by 25% to a record total of 3,124 children homeless. When we include adults, there are now a shocking total of 8,374 people homeless nationwide.
It is clear that the housing and homelessness crisis is getting worse, but we should not be wasting time and energy arguing about comparisons to other countries.
We, in Focus Ireland, put our energy into helping those impacted, and finding practical solutions. We need to end homelessness in Ireland, because it is morally and fundamentally wrong.
It breaks my heart to know that across Dublin in 2017, more children have been born into homelessness than ever before.
Some of them will spend their first Christmas stuck with their family, forced to live in one little room together.
This is truly awful, and it makes me think back to what Christmas is all about and to the first Christmas in Bethlehem, when nobody would take in Mary and Joseph, and Mary had to give birth to Jesus in a stable and lay him in a manger.
I am sure this will strike a chord with everyone, no matter what their beliefs are; similarly, these children today have also been turned away and left as homeless.
They are our children too, and we have a duty as a society to provide a safe home for them. This is what we are working to do.
Our family team in Dublin helps one family a day to secure a home, in partnership with the Dublin Regional Housing Executive and local authorities, and to escape the nightmare of homelessness.
However, at the same time, at least two more families are still losing their homes and becoming homeless every day. More single people are also being forced into homelessness due to rising rents, evictions and a critical shortage of affordable housing.
How can we stand by while families and their children who are homeless are forced to live in one hotel room for months at a time?
There is nowhere safe for the children to play, do their homework, or for the family to even cook a meal.
This is causing terrible damage for these families, and also the many single people who are homeless, stuck in hostels or some even sleeping on the streets.
Focus Ireland continues to put forward realistic policy solutions to help prevent and end homelessness. We do this work through our 70 lifeline services in Dublin and around the country.
While the crisis is still deepening, the situation would be much worse without the lifeline services and housing we provide.
We are there when people need us. We have already supported 600 more people this year compared to the same period in 2016.
Meanwhile, we have also supported 290 families and 556 children to secure a home and escape homelessness so far this year.
While the State supports some of our work, Focus Ireland also has to raise 40% (or €2 out of every €5) of what it costs to keep our services and housing running through donations and corporate support.
We work hard to support families and individuals every day – not just at Christmas – but we depend on donations now more than ever to raise funds so that our services can cope with the constantly rising demand.
I am asking people to please give what they can afford (see below) to support our urgent Christmas appeal.
Sr Stan :Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, founder and life president of Focus Ireland
HELP FOCUS IRELAND TO SUPPORT FAMILIES
Focus Ireland always stresses that every euro donated counts in the battle against homelessness, as 89 cent of every euro received goes directly to our services to support people who are homeless and those at risk.
Any donation will support our work challenging homelessness and changing lives as we help over 13,500 people each year who are homeless or at risk. We also provide over 800 homes nationwide.
People can donate at www.focusireland.ie, or by telephoning 1850 204 205. Thank you.