Tuesday 24 April 2018

Woman living in tent with son (6) launches legal action over emergency accommodation refusal

Karen Middleton who is homeless pictured with her son Luke (6)
Karen Middleton who is homeless pictured with her son Luke (6)

Tim Healy

A WOMAN and her young son who spent a number of weeks living in a tent outside a county council 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 Middleton.

On Monday, their barrister David Leonard told the court the two have been in the tent since June 12 after Carlow Co 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.

Karen Middleton pictured at a Carlow Housing Network protest
Karen Middleton pictured at a Carlow Housing Network protest

On one occasion, local councillor John Cassin paid for one nights accommodation in a local hotel.

While on other occasions members of the public have also paid for her and her son's 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 for short periods.

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 the gardai after she refused to leave, before being released.

Eventually, she and her son were given emergency accommodation in B&B's 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 the gardai.

She has since taken up residence in a tent outside the council's offices.

Due to her fears that her son may be taken off her, friends have allowed him 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.  Fearing for her safety, she called the gardai.

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

Her counsel said the action has been brought on grounds including a challenged to the lawfulness of the council's decision that Ms Middleton could rent a property.

They claim the decision fails to take into account the information she gave the council why alternative accommodation options were not available.

Counsel said the refusal to provide the Middletons with emergency accommodation is unlawful as it breaches their constitutional rights and rights under 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 Wednesday.

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