Thursday 21 June 2018

'I couldn't return to my home' - mother made homeless after leaving abusive family home

Mother was made homeless after leaving a domestic violence refuge as she was not recognised as needing rent assistance or other supports - despite being unable to return to her family home

Parkgate Hall where Dublin Regional Homeless Executive is based. Photo: Google Maps
Parkgate Hall where Dublin Regional Homeless Executive is based. Photo: Google Maps
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

A mother who was forced to leave her family home due to domestic abuse has hit out at the inflexibility in the State’s housing and homelessness services.

Linda* and her two children left their family home in 2017 after suffering two decades of controlling and abusive behaviour at the hands of her husband.

She sought refuge in the Aoibhneas Women and Children's Refuge in north Dublin where she was given an eight-week stay with a number of wrap-around services.

"I think if they’d refused me that’d have found me... [I’d have taken my own life]," she said.

But it was when it came to leaving the service and moving into independent living that Linda realised she was in a catch-22 situation.

As a homeowner - she and her husband owned a house with no mortgage and had agreed to sell it - Linda was not entitled to any assistance.

"They deemed me as someone with a house and lots of money, even though I was on social welfare and hadn’t a penny to my name," she said.

"So I was left in limbo it was either go back to the environment I’d just spent eight weeks [in the refuge] working to get away from or become homeless.

"I felt like the minute I left the house he lost control over me, I knew five minutes back in the house and he’d have been in his domain. It would have been like turning back time."

Left with little option while she waited for the sale of her home to go through, Linda declared herself homeless at Parkgate Hall, where the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive services are based.

"I spent six months in B&B accommodation in the city centre with two kids," she said.

"We had to share a kitchen with 26 other families."

A friend then offered to let Linda and her children stay with her in her home, which they did for another seven months before moving to a house of their own. However, their new home is more than an hour away from Dublin.

"I’m now down there on my own with two kids and I don’t know anyone," she said.

She had hoped for her children’s sake to stay in Dublin but was priced out of the market.

"I remember saying to my solicitor when I agreed to sell that I might have been able to get something smaller somewhere in Dublin but by the time everything went through things had just rocketed," she said.

"I made a promise to them [my children] that I’d do everything in my power to keep them in Dublin if I can but I said 'I can’t promise that. But I do promise we’ll have our own home and you’ll have your own bedrooms'. So I kept half the bargain but they’re OK, they’re settling," she said, growing emotional.

Linda said she feels as though the system operates on a purely black and white basis and there needs to be some flexibility to take people's personal circumstances into consideration where possible.

Linda's story is not unusual in the sense that she was forced into the emergency accommodation due to her circumstances, manager of the Aoibhneas Women's Refuge, Emma Reidy told

Refuge places in Dublin have decreased in recent years which is exacerbating the problems around domestic violence and homelessness. 

"While we are a Tusla-funded agency by definition homelessness is and has recognised many causal factors as to why vulnerable people are homeless. We don't get any mainstream recognition from the Homeless Executive or the Department of Housing," Ms Reidy said.

"Domestic violence agencies are not involved in any regional or national committees regarding homelessness so as such our voice isn't being represented in forums that could be leading to better strategies and policies."

Step-down accommodation would be hugely beneficial so that families can retain therapeutic intervention and allow for a natural progression into a longer term solution, Ms Reidy said.

The closure of two services in Dublin in the past year refusals have gone up in Aoibhneas - there are around 400 instances per year when the service is forced to decline refuge due to being at capacity.

A spokesperson for the Department of Housing/Dublin Regional Homelessness Executive said the department has issued guidance to all housing authorities in relation to assisting victims of domestic violence with emergency and long-term accommodation needs".

" It covers a range of scenarios that may arise for victims of domestic violence in seeking social housing supports, including provisions around the use of the Housing Assistance Payment scheme, or the Rental Accommodation Scheme, where a victim has a joint interest in the family home, or ownership of alternative accommodation, but would otherwise qualify for social housing support," a spokesman said.

*Linda's name has been changed to protect her identity.

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