Born homeless in Limerick: 'My baby's first home was a hotel room'

Fintan Walsh

Reporter:

Fintan Walsh

Novas confirmed that there is one pregnant woman residing in McGarry House. Nine babies were born into homelessness so far this year

Novas confirmed that there is one pregnant woman residing in McGarry House. Nine babies were born into homelessness so far this year

NINE babies have been born into homelessness in Limerick so far this year, while three women are soon expected to give birth while in emergency accommodation, the Limerick Leader has learned.

That is according to data received by this newspaper from Novas homeless services. 

There are currently nine children attached to Novas’ intensive family support service were born into homelessness this year.

There are three women who are pregnant in emergency accommodation, while there is one pregnant woman residing in McGarry House on St Alphonsus Street.

The Leader spoke to a woman who gave birth while living homeless with her partner and children in the city.

The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said that she was “frightened and devastated” at the thought that her newborn’s first home was a hotel room.

The woman said that she was forced into homelessness after being unable to secure a home to rent.

“I was living at home with my mother and my kids, and my partner was living at home with his mother. We had been promised a house in a student village. That was going to be our family home.

“The landlord then changed his mind because he could then get cash from students. At the time we were only entitled to Ras [rental accommodation scheme], and he didn’t want to go down that road. That left us hunting and hunting for months.

“We had no luck. We viewed over 24 houses, I’d say. But the minute we mentioned rent allowance, that was it. They said that they would ring me back but I never got a call back. So we had no other choice but to go down the homeless route,” she explained.  She was pregnant when she made the decision to access the homeless services.

“It was very hard. More so on the kids, rather than me. They were being moved, and they didn’t know where they were going.

“At that stage, I was already pregnant. It was devastating – frightening more than anything. I had nothing in my mind but to get a home fast. I tried everything I could.”

Knowing that she was going to bring a baby into a world of homelessness, the mother said: “I was devastated.”

The baby’s first home was a hotel room, she said. “When I was bringing the baby home, I was crying. I didn’t want the child to be stuck in a room.”

She said she fears that her baby being born into homeless will have future impact on his or her life. “If they are stuck in the one room, that is all they know. That is a big impact on them,” she added.  She said that it affected her and her partner’s mental health. 

“I can’t even explain how hard it is,” she said, adding that it was a “lonely” experience.

A spokesperson for Novas said that as the number of homeless families rise “so too has the number of children born into homelessness”.

“Bringing a baby back to B&B accommodation is very stressful, in terms of maintaining high standards of hygiene including sterilisation and trying to provide a calm environment for a new-born child in immensely confined spaces. We know from research that if a child experiences homelessness as an infant or a toddler, they are at a 60% risk of not reaching their potential in later life,” the spokesperson said. 

Novas is currently working with 118 families in Limerick “who are homeless or at risk of homeless” and continue to secure long-term homes for as many as possible, “including the procurement of an additional 23 new homes in Limerick this year”.