Friday 24 November 2017

Mother and son living in tent sue council over lack of accommodation

Karen Middleton with son Luke (6) at a Carlow Housing Network protest. Photo: Frank McGrath
Karen Middleton with son Luke (6) at a Carlow Housing Network protest. Photo: Frank McGrath

Tim Healy

A woman and her young son who spent weeks living in a tent outside a county council office have launched a legal challenge over a refusal to provide them with emergency accommodation.

The High Court action has been taken by Karen Middleton and her six-year-old son Luke.

On Monday, their barrister David Leonard told the court the two have been in the tent since June 12 after Carlow County Council refused to provide them with any further emergency accommodation.

Mr Leonard, instructed by solicitor Sinead Kerin of Mercy Law Resource Centre, said Ms Middleton left Dublin in late March for her native Carlow following a breakdown in her relationship. They had stayed with relatives for a period but they were no longer able to provide them with shelter.

Her son also has health needs, counsel said.

On one occasion, local councillor John Cassin paid for a night's accommodation in a local hotel. On other occasions, members of the public have also paid for accommodation.

Counsel said his clients have sought private rented accommodation but have not been able to secure anywhere to stay. Last April, Ms Middleton and her son presented as being homeless at Carlow County Council's offices. They were provided with emergency accommodation at B&Bs.

Emergency

In early May, after she was told she had to leave emergency accommodation, she held a sit-in at the council's offices with volunteers from the Carlow Housing Network. She said she was arrested by gardaí after she refused to leave, before being released.

Eventually, she and her son were given emergency accommodation in B&Bs, which lasted between May 9 and June 12. When the council stopped providing them with accommodation on June 12, she staged another sit-in before again being removed by gardaí. She has since taken up residence in a tent at the council offices. Due to her fears that her son may be taken off her, friends have allowed him to sleep on their sofas.

She is concerned to be living in a tent. On one occasion, she said, people started throwing items including eggs at her tent.

In their action, the Middletons seek an order directing Carlow County Council to consider their outstanding application for emergency homeless accommodation by way of social housing support or by any other means.

Counsel said the refusal to provide the Middletons with emergency accommodation is unlawful as it breaches their constitutional rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. The matter came before Mr Justice Seamus Noonan who said the application for permission to bring the challenge should be on notice to the council.

He adjourned the matter to tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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