Tuesday 19 March 2019

Mother and children living in B&B facing an uncertain future

Mum-of-two Monica O’Connor in her B&B room
Mum-of-two Monica O’Connor in her B&B room

David Looby

A New Ross mother-of-two is facing an uncertain future this Christmas having been sent a large bill for being accommodated in a B&B in the New Ross area, by Wexford County Council.

Monica O'Connor, 22, from Irishtown, has been living in a B&B in the area with her 2-year-old son and 4 year-old daughter for three months, but doesn't know where she will be living at Christmas as she says she can't afford to pay the €500 in back rent.

Monica and her children were living in a three-bedroom house in New Ross up until August when she was informed the landlord was putting the house up for sale.

'I was there for two-and-a-half years. When I found out she was selling I went straight down to The Tholsel and told the officer that I had to be out for August 10 and he told me to find private rental accommodation, but there was none.'

Monica kept going down to speak with the official every Tuesday and was told that both she and her children could be accommodated in Wexford Women's Refuge.

'I was then told I had to go to Courtown. This was a fortnight before my daughter was due to start school in New Ross. I told him I couldn't go to Courtown as my son has a condition which requires him to see a physiotherapist for his legs and he has bad asthma which requires him to attend Waterford regional hospital every couple of weeks.'

Monica doesn't drive and would have had to spend two hours travelling each way to the appointments on a bus. 'I gave them hospital and doctors' letters. They said they had no room in a B&B in New Ross so I stayed in Courtown for two and a half weeks.'

On her own initiative Monica rang the B&B and was told there was a room available. She met with two housing officers two days later. 'When I went in they said there were no rooms in the B&B. They told me they only had the room in Courtown which I was only supposed to be in for one week. I was stuck in that B&B room with the children. I had no friends or family nearby. I had to drag the pram up two flights of stairs, while carrying my son who was 22-months-old at the time. He wasn't walking because of his condition.'

Monica was told only specific rooms in B&Bs are allocated to council tenants. Having threatened to go public with her story Monica was informed by text message that evening that she was going to be accommodated in the B&B closer to her hometown. 'That was the end of August. I'm in the B&B three months now. I have a double bed which I share with my children. It's up a stairs. There is no bath and the children are at a stage where they don't like showers.'

Monica isn't allowed to have family or friends come in and mind her young children, so she has to bring them everywhere with her. There is no kitchen for guests so she is feeding her children Pot Noodles and from take-aways. 'My son is catching everything as there are so many people living in the building. I don't know how I'm coping. I'm under a lot of stress and am literally at my wits' end.'

A €490 rent bill came 'out of the blue' - which Monica was told last week that she has to pay or face leaving the B&B - was the last straw. 'I was told in August that I wouldn't have to pay any rent because I had two small children. They asked me my income and what I spent on bills. They took into account that I have to feed myself and my two children. I feel like I am after letting my two children down big time. They had everything and it was all literally taken away. They had a garden, a trampoline and swings. They had the life. Now they've a TV in a little room with a box of toys in the corner.'

Monica said she doesn't want to rely on others and wants to be able to care for her children independently. 'We rely on taxis. I have family but I don't want to rely on them too much.'

She is meeting with council officials today (Tuesday) to try to work out a payment plan. 'I can't afford it. I wasn't expecting it at all. Now I'm told I have to pay rent. The council are saying they never told me I didn't have to pay rent. I just don't know how this is going to go.'

People Before Profit representative Susan Breen said the family are left with the prospect of being made homeless for Christmas.'It's a nightmare. They put her in a B&B and now they are springing this massive bill on her.'

A Wexford County Council spokesperson said: 'When clients are placed in emergency B&B accommodation the following charges will apply: (€5 per night for single person- €35 per week; €7 per night for two persons - €50 per week). There is no charge for children. A concession may be considered if the client is incurring extraordinary or exceptional expenses by reason of his or her placement.'

New Ross Standard