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Wicklow family, including child with special needs, left with week to stop homelessness

 Mum is willing to ‘live in a tent’ if that’s what it takes to keep autistic son in Marino Special School


Stock image of tents being used in Dublin's Phoenix Park. Photo: Collins

Stock image of tents being used in Dublin's Phoenix Park. Photo: Collins

Stock image of tents being used in Dublin's Phoenix Park. Photo: Collins


It was the arrival of the skips that has finally made it seem real. Furniture, toys, electrical goods, anything not deemed essential had to be thrown out, all those years of building their lives, building their family, amounting to nothing.

Come February 8, Lisa Healy, her husband Darren, and their three children will be evicted from the home they have rented in Bray for the past six-and-a-half years, left with nowhere to go, only the possessions they can fit in the car to their name. 

Having been informed that their rented property was being sold last July the family have spent the last seven months desperately searching for somewhere to live, but to no avail. 

“We have been living here since 2016, the landlord announced he was selling last summer and the day after we found out we went straight to the council to explain our situation,” says Lisa. “The property has now been sold and we are scheduled to move out on February 8.”

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Lisa and Darren, who have rented in the Bray area for the past 13 years, have been unable to apply for a mortgage because their income doesn’t meet the threshold. Although Darren works full-time, Lisa gave up her career nine years ago to care full-time for her autistic son who is 11-years-old. He attends Marino Special School and, according to his mam, there is simply no way he can be taken out of that school.

“He has autism and ADHD and if I have to take him out of the school he attends it will open a huge can of worms, I had to battle to get him in there, ring 26 psychologists to secure a place, and I refuse to take him out of there, even if I have to live in a tent my son is not leaving that school,” Lisa says. “This is already proving stressful for him because he knows we’re going to be moving out, it’s a big upheaval for him.

“Greystones is the absolute limit of where we could go because of my son’s school. The bus would collect him there but it won’t go any further. The Principal from Marino School provided me with letters to give to the council on her behalf expressing the importance of my son remaining there, that he needs the routine and the structure. ” 

In addition to scouring the private market for available options, Lisa has been in constant communication with Wicklow County Council (WCC), liaising with its housing department in the hope of being assigned a property suitable for her family. 

“After we first went to the council we had to submit all the documents and were then told we would have to wait for 12 weeks to get on the housing list,” Lisa says. “We thought it would be a positive to be on the list but because we’re not on it long enough we’re not deemed a priority. We have been looking on the private market too but there’s nothing out there, and we don’t qualify for a mortgage because I’m my son’s carer.”

Although the couple have family living locally, they say its unfeasible for them all to move in with their parents or siblings, instead they are now facing into the reality of emergency accommodation, putting themselves at the mercy of a system they know little about. 

“The council have said that if we become homeless we have to present ourselves as homeless and then be put in emergency accommodation if, but only if, they have something available. But I don’t know how the system works, would we have to call them every day? Would we be kept together? From what I’ve heard we may be split into male and female accommodation and that would have a massive impact on my son.

“Myself and my husband are in our mid-thirties, we don’t go out socialising, don’t go to the pub, we stay at home. My son won’t go to bed unless he knows we’re all there, he doesn’t sleep well anyway and if he notices one of us isn’t there that’s his night ruined, he won’t go to bed until we’re all there. This is going to destroy us.”

With two other children, aged nine and six, Lisa has been putting on a brave front, doing her level best to ensure they aren’t exposed to the stress and worry she’s feeling.

“I’ve almost adopted an alter-ego, I’m this happy, smiling person in front of the kids but then as soon as they go to bed I just crumble. This morning when I took the kids to school I had everyone coming up to me, saying how sorry they felt for me, asking if they could help, but it feels like just banging your head against a brick wall. We do have family in the area, but we couldn’t all go to them, it just wouldn’t work.

“It’s becoming real now that the skip is here and we’re having to put all our stuff we’ve collected over the last 13 years into it. I can’t sleep, I’m not eating, I feel sick constantly, we have searched high and low for the past seven months.”

Aware that there are vacant properties in the area, Lisa and Darren say they are willing to take anything with “four walls and a roof”, to assist the council rather than take from its already stretched resources.

“We’ve told the council that we can pay for any works needed in a house, we’re not looking for a hand-out, if we have a roof and four walls we can fund it all ourselves and they can come inspect it to make sure up it’s up to standard. They could make money off us rather than having to pay for us to go into emergency accommodation. We’ve tried to do everything by the book, once we started renting we did it all our on own, never asked for any assistance and now it feels like we’re being punished for not being on the housing list.

“I just want to find a home for my children, we’ve had seven TDs campaigning on our behalf, to see if our situation could be looked at, but they were told, as I was, that we’re not deemed a priority.”