‘They Would Come To School Hungry’

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Principal Mary Mother of Hope Senior School in Littlepace, Dublin 15, Enda McGorman

This morning.

On RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke.

Journalist Evelyn O’Rourke reported on homeless children who go to school hungry because the breakfast area at their place of accommodation isn’t open in time for them to eat before leaving for school.

[The most recent Department of Housing figures show that, as of the final week in September, 3,829 children were living in staying in State-funded emergency accommodation across the country]

Ms O’Rourke visited the Mary Mother of Hope Senior School in Littlepace, Dublin 15, and met the school’s principal Enda McGorman who is also a member of the Irish Primary Principals’ Network.

Mr McGorman told Ms O’Rourke:

“It’s a growing concern for me and school principals…One area that we’re really, really worried about is the effect that homelessness and the homeless crisis is having on children in school. The immediate effects that it’s having on school children, it’s really alarming and it’s at a basic level.

“One family that we’re trying to support – their B&B was in town. So to get transport out here, the children had to be on a bus so early that the breakfast bar wasn’t open for them. So they would come to school hungry.

“…And I think one of the other issues for us, it’s so silent, maybe not always here until kids maybe are already homeless and already in a place that they can’t back to school to and then we see absenteeism or we see lateness and we start to query it, where parents are either through fear or shame, forget or don’t wish to share it with us.

“I’m just thinking in the last month, I’ve written three letters for families to say ‘I know this family, they’re a good solid family, please afford them the opportunity to rent your house’.

“Because they’ll go to view a house and there could be 100 families waiting ahead of them. So you never thought you’d be doing that as a school principal, to try and support people who you’ve known and whose children you’ve known…these are some of the realities that we’re dealing with that we never thought we’d be dealing with.

“Another concern we have is homework. And ‘how can I do my homework if I’m lying on the floor?’. One of the families that we’re supporting were living in one of these, it wouldn’t be quite a hotel standard, but it was surrounded by roundabouts, on the periphery of a motorway and even accessing it, getting in and getting out of there, there’s no public transport.

“So the family were literally trapped there. There’s no way those children were going to get to our school. And no prospect of them leaving it either.”

Mr McGorman also said he has often been approached by parents who go to him for help after they’ve received eviction letters.

Listen back in full here

Pic: Vimeo

23 thoughts on “‘They Would Come To School Hungry’

    1. Starina

      You could protest on December 1st, for one. There’s also volunteering, everything from Focus to Pizza and Pals and beyond.

  1. Stan

    And of course the government gives not a single f*ck because people in emergency accommodation are unlikely to be anywhere long enough to register to vote. We may as well just re-introduce a property qualification for the franchise. Enough people seem to imagine that people who don’t own houses, and can’t afford ridiculous rents, are free riders on the efforts of respectable people. Weirdly, it shames me more reading this stuff when I’m not in Ireland, than when at home.

  2. Starina

    Deprivation and stress at a young age has a well-known impact on a child’s development, too — it leaves a life-long disadvantage to cognitive ability and mental health, even after (if) the child’s life stabilises.

    This is state neglect.

    1. ReproBertie

      Speaking of such things, for want of €500K 7 schools in Ballymun lost their breakfast clubs. These clubs provided cereal and toast to kids who otherwise went to school hungry. They also allowed the schools to be open earlier facilitating parents who needed to get to work. But sure it’s only Ballymun.

        1. ReproBertie

          There was a campaign to save them. We were told it was just an accounting issue and the funds were available but delay followed delay followed delay until the group running the breakfast clubs (a community employment scheme no less) had to start the redundancy process and that was that.

          1. Otis Blue

            It’s seems so many important services around the country are dependent on community employment and other schemes. As important as they are, they’re delivered on limited resources and in many cases come about because the state shirks its responsibilities.

          2. Rob_G

            “… in many cases come about because the state shirks its responsibilities.”

            I have no desire to see any child go to school hungry, but to suggest that it is the state’s responsibility to see that children are fed, rather than their parents, seems mental to me.

  3. Jimothy

    I’m middle class, I live a comfortable existence, and I’ve been fed a carefully curated display of the scrounging underclasses using all my tax money and resources through our Fine Gael run media. I see through their bullpoo and I’m mad as hell. Why is it okay for people to go without a home? Why aren’t the general public angry about this? I want anger, I want bricks thrown through the windows of the Dail, shut the country down, proper fupping anger. Give a poo people! Please!

  4. baz

    parents are mostly not working, nothing else to do BUT ensure that their kids are fed.

    There are many inexpensive nutritious options available even without ‘facilities’
    Zero excuse for no breakfast

    If nourishing their kids is an issue then the real question is why are the kids still in their ‘care’

    1. kellMA

      That is certainly an over generalisation. A lot of homeless families presenting now are working. A friend of mine works with Focus Ireland and she said over the last year or so it is shocking the amount of “normal” families that are presenting as homeless. I would imagine if this man is highlighting the lack of breakfast nutrition in regard to homelessness then he is in a position to judge that the lack of food has a direct link to their accommodation rather than the parenting skills of the parents involved. I am no “Margaret Cash fan” but I think your reaction here is quite unfair.

    2. Nigel

      Some parents can’t cope. Some parents are complete garbage and don’t care. Authorities are incredibly reluctant to break up families for all sorts of very good reasons. If you deprive children of facilities that provide food because the parents should be better, the brunt of it is still going to fall on the kids, no matter what.

  5. Joe Small

    There is no reason or excuse for any child in this country to go hungry. I know schools do lunches in deprived areas – do they do breakfasts too?

    1. millie st murderlark

      My little one is in an educate together school and they do free lunches but as far as I know there’s no breakfast service.

      Breakfast clubs are a great idea.

      1. Neilo

        @Millie: splendid idea. Often work well as a voluntary initiative with some sponsorship help and maybe Community Employment assistance. I think the breakfast clubs in some of the poorer parts of Drogheda started out that way. It’s crucial to their physical and emotional wellbeing that children are properly nourished.

  6. diddy

    let’s face it. Dublin is a lock out. lose your gaff and you’ve a remote chance of finding another due to price and demand. FF FG have 50% of the vote. The left badly needs leadership to highlight the disgusting exploitation that is going on in this economy

  7. Kolmo

    Do people want an actual functional society or do they want to live in a neo-liberal balance sheet, when you become a liability, you’re up the excramental stream without a paddle. We have a great country but the lack of radical thought to promote a country fit for it’s citizens is depressing, even the appearance of an aspiration to provide well-planned state services in a timely and humane manner is laughed at as some “far-leftist” agenda..we’ll be like Brazil soon if those holding all the cards go unchecked.

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