Enniscorthy couple say they have nowhere to go and are now homeless
THE parents of two young children in the Enniscorthy area of County Wexford have appealed to the local authority to help house them and prevent them from having to continue living in a tent in local woods.
Shane Breen and his partner, Caroline Jordan, have been pitching the tent in woodslands and forestry near the town over the last few weeks, since they were made homeless as a result of having to leave their home in the Cluain Bui estate in Enniscorthy, where they lived for over 10 years.
Their two young children stay with Shane’s mother at night time in Marshalstown to prevent them from having to sleep in the tent as well.
When contacted about their situation by the Enniscorthy Guardian, Shane said they were RAS tenants of the local authority in Enniscorthy and he said they’ve received no help from the County Council in terms of being re-housed and instead he said some local public representatives have informed him that they won’t be getting a house.
A digger driver by trade, Shane and Caroline’s rents is around €6,000 in arrears, however, over their tenure in the house in Cluian Bui, Shane said he invested around €10,000 of his own money into the property to carry out essential maintenance work such as the installation of a new boiler system along with carrying out necessary works on the back yard to make it safe and habitable for his family.
Shane said that as a result of having to invest money into the property the rent fell into arrears and he feels that is now being held against him and Caroline and their chances of getting another local authority house.
Under the RAS scheme (Rental Accommodation Scheme) the local authority draws up contracts with landlords to provide housing for an agreed term for people with long-term housing needs.
Shane said that initially he was told his family would have to leave their home in Cluian Bui because the landlord was going to sell it, however, he said that after they left he was told it was because their rent was in arrears.
“The thing is we wouldn’t have been in arrears if I hadn’t had to spend my own money on carrying out work on the house but that wasn’t taken into account at all,” said Shane.
He said that despite being RAS tenants the local authority told him the works that needed to be done were between him and the landlord of the house. However, Shane said it was a matter for the local authority to fix and the end result was he had to invest his own money in the property.
“The landlord couldn’t pay for it and he said to do the repairs myself and when I put it to the council they said the landlord could deal with it,” said Shane.
The owner of the property informed Shane and Caroline six months in advance that they would have to leave their home and he said that in the interim they’ve received no assistance from the local authority in terms of getting them rehoused.
To make matters worse both Shane and Caroline’s social welfare payments were also stopped and that meant for a period of time last year there was no money coming into their house.
“No matter what we gave them they were looking for more information,” said Shane, who is about to start a new job.
“We were using clothes banks and food banks,” he said.
While they are very grateful to Shane’s mother Ann for helping out by letting their children stay with her temporarily, Shane said it’s not fair on her either and there isn’t room in her house for them all to stay.
“That’s why we are in the tent because we’ve nowhere to go so we pitch the tent at Carne and in Bree wood and Camolin woods,” said Shane.
“I should not have had to do the work on the house it should have been the County Councli that fixed the problems,” he added.
“However, when I rang them they said it was up to the landlord but that wasn’t fair.”
When they moved into the property work necessary on the backyard cost Shane and Caroline €4,000.
“The back yard had to be done when we moved in I did all that work and had to put up a fence,” said Shane.
“I had to pout the new boiler in and also a shower and when I approached the council about it I got nowhere with them,” he added.
“We’ve been told we’re suspended from the housing list now for three years but I was told that through someone else because the council wouldn’t talk to us and they didn’t want to hear my side of the story at all.”
Shane went on to comment: “There are genuine reasons why we were in arrears but no-one from the council was interested in hearing why.”
He said life is far from easy living in the tent because as well as it being far from idyllic in terms of comfort there would also be the logistics involved in getting to his mam’s house to get the children ready for school and then getting to work himself.
With regard to settling the arrears Shane said he has no problem working that out with the council but said: “I definitely don’t mind paying rent as long as I don’t have to work on the house.”
He also commented on the fact there are “numerous houses that are vacant and idle around the district.
“I absolutely don’t mind paying the arrears but the council should have come to me to resolve the issue in the first place,” he said. Shane’s mam, Ann, said she obviously doesn’t mind having her grandchildren with her but she expressed concern over the fact the family have to be split up.
“The children don’t understand what is going on and I will keep them with me but it’s not fair to have the family split up,” said Ann.
“The council told them that if they pay 50 per cent of what’s owed they will be put back on the housing list in three years time,” she added. When contacted about the matter a spokesperson for Wexford County Council said the local authority was not in a position to contact on individual cases but said: “You will appreciate that we will not comment on individual cases and therefore I would suggest the gentleman make contact RAS Unit who will be happy to engage with him.”