A picture of a homeless five-year-old eating his dinner off a piece of cardboard has gone viral.
The young child, known as “Sam”, was spotted by The Homeless Street Cafe, a group of volunteers who provide food and toiletries to the homeless in Grafton Street, Dublin.
Tragically, Sam was not the only child to have used the services on Tuesday night and according to Denise Carroll – a volunteer for the group – there were at least four others.
She told The Independent: “When we started three years ago we rarely had kids, now most nights we will see children.
“Their poor parents can’t cook in their accommodation and can’t eat in restaurants every night so are doing their best to source some home-cooked food for the kids.
“’Sam’ is only a representation through a snapshot of our night of the 4,000 homeless children struggling right now.”
Ms Carroll said she was “affected” by what she saw.
She added: “You can become hardened to it seeing it every week. I’m also a nurse in my professional career but there are nights that catch you unaware and it can be overwhelming – the sheer scale and hopelessness of the situation.
“On that night alone we dealt with: Kids sitting on the ground to eat, a homeless lady in distress who told us she had been raped by a group of men, a man who was hiding his sleeping bag in a bush every day while he went to work and on our way home a man lying in his sleeping bag under a streetlight on a path beside the Liffey as people all passed by.
“I was definitely affected by that night.”
The photograph was posted on Facebook on Tuesday, when temperatures plummeted to 4C in the Irish capital.
The volunteers set up on Grafton street and serve food to at least 200 people each week.
Writing on Facebook, the Homeless Street Cafe’s post reads: “We are home after another incredibly busy night. I’m exhausted, weary and emotional and should (guiltily) go to bed BUT there is an image burnt in all the teams’ minds tonight.
“It’s wrong and it’s distressing but this IS happening and it’s only getting worse each week.
“’Sam’ is five and this was him eating a dinner of carbonara tonight on a sheet of cardboard.
“Can we really accept this?”
According to the most recent figures from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government from August this year, there were 6,143 adults and 2850 children who were homeless or living in emergency accommodation.
Across Ireland, there were 8,216 adults and 3848 children deemed homeless.
Homeless charity Focus Ireland claimed there has been a rise in homelessness due to a lack of social housing provision combined with private house building “grinding to a half”, leading to more people renting their homes and struggling to afford rent.
The charity added: “The number of homeless families has increased by 348 per cent since August 2014. More than one in three people in emergency accommodation is a child.
“However, this number does not include ‘hidden homelessness’ which refers to people who are living in squats or ‘sofa surfing’ with friends.
“Furthermore, women and children staying in domestic violence refuges are not included in these homeless emergency accommodation counts.”
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