44-stone Ritchie pleads for new home

A 44-stone housebound man, who can no longer climb the stairs in his tiny flat, has made an emotional appeal for a new home.

Morbidly obese Ritchie Doyle, 44, who rents a two-bedroom apartment in Bantry, Co Cork, has ulcerated legs and relies on an oxygen machine to help him breathe.

In receipt of disability allowance and rent supplement, he has been on Cork County Council’s local authority housing waiting list for 18 months but has been told there is no suitable accommodation for him.

He has gone public on his plight in a last-ditch effort to get a council house or help from the private rented sector.

“I am housebound. I can’t walk far anymore. I have ulcerated legs and I’m just looking at the four walls. I am starting to get depressed. I would plead with them to consider my case on humanitarian grounds,” he said.

The former security doorman moved from Dublin to Bantry almost 20 years ago. He joined the FCA, served with the town’s fire brigade, and volunteered with the local inshore search and rescue service.

“When I moved here, I had a 36-inch waist but over the years, I got bigger and bigger — not from eating but from fluid retention.”

When he and his partner, with whom he has two children, separated in early 2011, he said his health really began to deteriorate, and the weight piled on. He moved out of the family home and began renting the tiny apartment on the main road to Glengarriff.

“It was a roof over my head because I had nowhere else to stay.”

He could climb the narrow stairs to his bedroom, and climb down backwards, until recently.

But such is the pain in his legs now, he has been forced to live downstairs, sleeping on the floor in the open-plan living space.

He really struggled during the heatwave and had to leave the front door, which opens directly on to the main road, open during the day. It resulted in fumes from passing traffic pouring in to his living area.

His weight and the fumes have aggravated his asthma and he is on oxygen 24-hours a day.

He is visited regularly by a public health nurse who changes the dressings on his leg ulcers. His ex-partner also visits regularly to help feed and bathe him, and his children help with errands and grocery shopping. But there is no sign that his living conditions will improve.

“There are eight houses built over the last two or three years that I’ve seen given out to people by the council,” Mr Doyle said.

“One house was handed back three times. Another house, within five minutes of here, has been empty for 18 months.

“Every time I mention a house to the council, they say that one’s gone, or that one’s gone. I’m on the housing list for 18 months now and I would like anything on flat ground — something like a bungalow.”

Bantry mayor Kathleen Tassyman visited Mr Doyle at his home and said she was shocked by his living conditions. She raised his plight with council officials but said they told her there is no suitable accommodation for him at the moment.

“I know there is a housing waiting list but something should be done for this man,” she said.

“He’s in a tiny apartment that’s been made out of the back of a house — it’s totally unsuitable to his needs. He’s sleeping on the floor inside the door. He lies on the floor with his feet at one end of the room and his head at the door, where the fumes are coming in.

“A person lying on the floor like that, who’s not well? It’s very sad in this day and age. I know we are in recession but we’re not that bad off.”

Mr Doyle said he is anxious to remain in Bantry to be close to his children.

Ms Tassyman said if Cork County Council can’t find suitable accommodation soon, she hopes that a housing agency or a private landlord may step in to help.

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