Sunday 21 October 2018

RTE's 'My Homeless Family': 'Rats, cockroaches and blood' behind complaints

Erica Fleming who is homeless and living in a hotel Photo: Mark Condren
Erica Fleming who is homeless and living in a hotel Photo: Mark Condren

Ciara Treacy and Sarah Jane Murphy

More than 100 complaints were made about emergency homeless accommodation in Dublin last year, with reports of rats, cockroaches, mould and blood-stained mattresses.

The complaints were made to the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive by homeless people who had been placed in hotels, bed and breakfasts and other emergency accommodation.

People described living in cramped, damp, dirty accommodation. Details of the complaints were released to RTÉ News under a Freedom of Information request.

"There is a very serious problem with rats in the apartment. They are jumping on the beds, in the kitchen, all over the place … This living situation is causing huge distress and has become unbearable," reported one complainant.

Another said: "All we hear most nights is people screaming at each other, none of us are getting any sleep and it's starting to affect my daughters' school work, as well as our family."

It comes as families living in temporary accommodation said they were "not living the life of luxury" in hotels and B&Bs.

Participants of RTÉ 1's 'My Homeless Family', which aired last night, filmed their lives over a three-month period to show the reality of living in a hotel.

For single mother Erica Fleming and daughter Emily (9), the hotel has become home while they wait to move up the social housing list.

"There's a hundred people in front of me, at least," Ms Fleming said. "Another six months of this, I will crack up.

"I have always worked, I continue to work but due to the difference between rent allowance and the actual rent, I couldn't make up the difference, and therefore I ended up being where I am today.

"I just want affordable rent. I can't hand out rent of €900, I'm never going to be able to afford that. Everybody seems to think that homeless people are people that are just on the streets or have a drug problem or an alcohol problem and that's not the way it is any more."

She spoke of the "mountain of fears" involved in staying in temporary accommodation.

"The hotel only has to take you for a week at a time. This week you could be on the northside, next week you could be on the southside," she said.

However, the hotel staff have become an important support network for the family. "They look after Emily, they show an interest in her, they go out of their way to do stuff for her."

Sandra and Brendan Hanley-Hand have been homeless for the last 11 months. "People out there think that [being] homeless is great, that you're living in a hotel and you have luxury, and you're living the life of Reilly," said Ms Hanley-Hand.

"You're not living the life of Reilly, you're not living the life of luxury," she said.

The Dublin Regional Homeless Executive reacted to the programme this morning.

Cathal Morgan of the Dublin Homeless Executive said that housing supply remains the main problem in the Dublin area.

"You couldn't but be touched watching the programme last night," he said on RTE Radio One.

"The use of commercial hotels is not sustainable, but unfortunately the alternative is the streets.

"A common misconception people have is that if someone becomes homeless nothing changes for them but that's not the case, 1056 homeless families in the greater Dublin area got tenancies in 2015.

"We know it's tough on people but we are asking them to hang in there as we now have an extra 30 staff working to assist you.

"We need people to look at other alternatives such as leasing, rental schemes or modular housing.

"If people are prepared to look at alternative options we will help them.

"We can offer pre-clearance in relation to rent allowance and help in sourcing accommodation.

"We need communities to get behind modular housing, he told RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland.

Irish Independent

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