Saturday 27 May 2017

RTE's 'My Homeless Family' shows reality of raising a family in a hotel is 'far from luxury'

Erica Fleming in RTE's 'My Homeless Family'
Erica Fleming in RTE's 'My Homeless Family'

Ciara Treacy

Homeless families staying in temporary accommodation want to show they are "not living a life of luxury" in hotels and B&Bs.

Participants in RTE One's My Homeless Family, which aired last night, filmed their lives over three months to show the realities of living in a hotel.

For single mother Erica Fleming and daughter Emily (9), the hotel has become home while they wait to move up the social housing list.

Affordable

Sandra and Brendan Hanley-Hand
Sandra and Brendan Hanley-Hand

"There's a hundred people in front of me, at least," Ms Fleming said. "Another six months of this and I will crack up.

"I've always worked, I continue to work, but due to the difference between rent allowance and the actual rent I couldn't make up the difference and I ended up being where I am today.

"I just want affordable rent. I can't hand out €900. I'm never going to be able to afford that.

"Everybody seems to think that homeless people are people that are just on the streets or have a drug problem or an alcohol problem and that's not the way it is any more."

She spoke of the "mountain of fears" involved in staying in temporary accommodation.

"The hotel only has to take you for a week at a time. This week you could be on the northside, next week you could be on the southside," she said.

"One week there was a Dublin game on or something and the hotel was fully booked.

"You have the fear that you could end up with nowhere to go."

The kindly hotel staff have become an important support for Ms Fleming and her daughter.

"They look after Emily, they show an interest in her, they go out of their way to do stuff for her. Even through all of this, she is my rock," she said.

Sandra and Brendan Hanley-Hand were homeless for 11 months after the place they were renting was repossessed.

While staying in one hotel, they had to get eight buses a day because of the different schedules of their children, Jasmine and Ryan.

"People out there think that being homeless is great, that you're living in a hotel and you have luxury, and you're living the life of Riley," said Ms Hanley-Hand. "You're not living the life of Riley, you're not living the life of luxury.

Curfews

"Me, my husband and my two kids, we have to eat, sleep and wash all in one room. It kills us because we feel that we put our children into this situation."

In their previous hotel there was the added pressure of rules and curfews.

"You weren't allowed to walk in the main door. You'd walk around the side entrance and through the exit door," said Ms Hanley- Hand. "We shouldn't be treated different just because we're homeless."

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