‘No idea’ where mother and son will sleep following ruling

A homeless woman and her six-year-old son had “no idea” yesterday where they would sleep last night after their demand for the immediate provision of emergency accommodation by Carlow County Council was thrown out by the High Court.

Karen Middleton and her son Luke had been living in a tent outside the local authority’s offices in Carlow.

In a judgment, Mr Justice Charles Meenan yesterday dismissed the mother’s action.

Following the ruling, the Middletons’ solicitor, Sinead Kerin of Mercy Law Resource Centre, said the family was disappointed with the decision. She said Karen and Luke did not know where they would be living last night.

After leaving the tent, the Middletons had been in accommodation paid for by charitable donations, pending the court’s decision.

Ms Middleton had left Dublin with her son in late March and returned to her native Carlow following a relationship breakdown. She had stayed with relatives until they were no longer able to provide shelter.

In April, the pair presented as being homeless at the council’s offices and, while initially refused emergency accommodation, they were put up at B&Bs for short periods until June 12.

After the council stopped providing accommodation, Ms Middleton staged a sit-in, before being removed by gardaí. The mother then took up residence in a tent outside the council offices.

Due to fears that her son may be taken from her, friends and supporters of the Middletons allowed Luke to sleep on their sofas.

She had tried but had been unable to secure private rented accommodation.

The Middletons asked the High Court for an order directing Carlow County Council to consider their outstanding application for emergency homeless accommodation by way of social housing support or by any other means.

They had also sought an order quashing the council’s decision that the Middletons could reasonably be expected to use alternative accommodation until the mother was able to rent a property. The council opposed Ms Middleton’s demands on the grounds it had limited resources available and that her requests had been fully considered.

Mr Justice Meenan, in a reserved judgment, said there was no basis to quash the council’s decision and the Middletons were not precluded from making a fresh application for emergency accommodation should further circumstances arise.

He said a detailed meeting between Ms Middleton, who was accompanied by a representative of Focus Ireland, and the council had been held on May 24, as a result of which he could not say the council’s decision to refuse further emergency accommodation could be “fundamentally at variance with reason and common sense”.

The judge said he was taking into account the resources the council had available and the competing demands on those resources.

The council had told the court there are 150 other persons in Co Carlow in a similar situation and the council cannot afford to give the Middletons priority.

The judge rejected claims by the Middletons that the council had not given them adequate reasons for its decision. He noted Ms Middleton will have a monthly housing assistance payment available to her to go towards rent.

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