Saturday 3 December 2016

Homeless family sue council over refusals of emergency accommodation

Aodhan O'Faolain

Published 16/11/2016 | 13:19

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A homeless lone mother and her four children, one of whom has epilepsy, have brought a legal challenge over repeated refusals to give them emergency accommodation.

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The woman claims she was forcibly removed by security staff from the offices of South Dublin County Council on October 6 last, one of “numerous” dates she sought accommodation, and fears her family, homeless since late September, will end up sleeping rough shortly unless the High Court intervenes.

“My family is now in a desperate situation as we face into winter with no access to accommodation. We are moving night on night, relying on the goodwill of friends which is not sustainable.”

She particularly feared for her epileptic son, who was hospitalised last month, if they don’t get accommodation soon. She herself was also unwell due to stress.

A native of Nigeria, the woman came to Ireland in 2000. She became a naturalised Irish citizen in 2013 and all her children are Irish citizens and attend schools here.

She claims she was told she was being refused emergency accommodation because she had given up a council tenancy in the UK (where she lived for about a year from 2015) and returned last September to Ireland (where she has lived since 2000).  “I was told that I should return to the UK, I was told that I had made my family intentionally homeless.”

The woman, an unemployed care assistant represented by the Mercy Law firm, has secured leave to bring judicial review proceedings against South Dublin County Council. The case is among several similar actions before the High Court.

Among her claims is the refusal of emergency accommodation is irrational and unreasonable and involves misapplication of the Council’s statutory powers having regard to obligations under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.

In court documents, she said she lived in the Tallaght area from  2006, worked part-time for periods and also did voluntary work.  She held a council tenancy in Tallaght from 2014 but surrendered that in June 2015 to move to the UK so her eldest son could pursue a sporting career.

While in the UK, the family obtained a council tenancy, her children attended school and she worked part-time. She said she struggled financially there, including in trying to fund her son’s sporting pursuits, and the family returned to Ireland in late September 2016.

She said she presented as homeless and immediately sought emergency accommodation from the Council but has been repeatedly refused access to emergency accommodation.

The Council, she claims, has given her no written statement of the reasons for refusing emergency accommodation to herself and her children. She had been told orally the refusal was due to the fact she gave up her tenancy in the UK when she decided to return here.

The family spent a week sleeping on the floor of a friend’s home before getting night-to-night accommodation with Focus Ireland through the Family Housing Assistance Team (HAT) funded by the Council on varying days, she said.

On October 10, she was advised they could not access the Family HAT and they were directed to A&E and the Garda. Since then she has had various informal and “chaotic” arrangements with friends but anticipates their goodwill would soon be exhausted and the family would end up sleeping rough.

The case is due before the court again on December 6th

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