Full-time worker forced to sleep in his car fears ‘dying homeless’ as HAP properties at all-time low

A homeless person forced to sleep rough. Photo: Nicholas T Ansell/PA

Paul Hyland

A working man who was forced to sleep in his car after his marriage ended said he fears he could die homeless.

His story comes as available rental homes for families who rely on the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) are at a record low ahead of a national eviction ban being lifted this weekend.

Gerry, who wishes to remain anonymous, lives in the mid-west and is aged in his late 50s.

He works in the security sector and has been with the same company for the last decade.

Gerry owns his own home, but he moved out after his marriage ended last November.

He could not find a rental property in his price range and spent several months couch surfing and sleeping in his car.

He also stayed with his adult son on occasion, but said he “felt bad” as he was taking a bed from his granddaughter.

Gerry said he never imagined he would end up sleeping in his car for such a long period.

“That was hard. I thought I was lucky because some people have nowhere to sleep, but I would wake up some mornings freezing with my blankets all wet,” he said.

“I wouldn’t get a good sleep because I’d have to keep turning on my car to get the heat back into it.

“When I was waking up in the morning, I’d have to take my clothes off in work to put them on the range to dry them off.”

Gerry told his manager about his situation but his family are unaware.

“I didn’t tell them because I knew it would upset them more. I told them I have accommodation,” he said.

Gerry contacted homeless services, and at the end of last month he was given a room in Oaklodge, the Mid-West Simon Community’s emergency accommodation centre in Limerick.

The centre provides accommodation to 50 men, including 17 who are in employment.

As Gerry owns his own home, he does not qualify for the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), and he cannot join a local authority housing waiting list.

He has been in touch with two councillors to see if he can get on a rent-to-buy scheme, but said he is not hopeful about his prospects.

“The rents around here are €1,400. It’s crazy. Not even a working man can afford that,” he said.

“I’m not entitled to anything. I know some people get HAP, but I wouldn’t be allowed that. There always seems to be a brick wall in front of me, no matter what way I go.

“I’m at the very bottom of the ladder and I’m not the only person in the country who’s going through this. If it wasn’t for Oaklodge, I don’t know what I’d do. I’d probably still be in my car.”

Gerry said the Government needs to streamline how it manages social welfare supports so people in his situation know what help is available.

With the end of the eviction ban, he said the situation for him and others will intensify and he would “give up his room if a family needed it”.

Gerry’s story comes as available rental homes for families who rely on the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) are at a record low ahead of a national eviction ban being lifted this weekend.

The Simon Community is making a plea to the Government to keep the eviction moratorium in place amid fears thousands are at risk of losing their homes in a private rental market with a stark lack of availability.

In a new report, the Simon Community found no properties to rent within standard HAP scheme limits, and only 29 across the country that were within discretionary HAP rates.

Eight of the 29 were not available to families on HAP who have children.

It is the lowest ever number of HAP properties since the Simon Community started carrying out the quarterly research in 2015.

The most recent “Locked Out of the Market” report analysed properties that were advertised on Daft.ie across 16 areas on March 13, 14 and 15.

Four Irish cities had no properties to rent for people on HAP – Galway, Limerick, Waterford and Cork.

There were also no HAP properties – meaning at either standard or discretionary rates – in the suburbs surrounding the cities of Galway, Limerick and Cork.