Homeless family-of-nine take legal action against County Council after being told to 'self-accommodate'

Homeless family-of-nine take legal action against County Council after being told to 'self-accommodate'
High Court

A homeless family of nine, the parents sometimes sleeping in their car after splitting up their seven children to stay from night to night with different relatives, have taken legal action to have their accommodation needs urgently addressed.

The mother said she, her husband and children aged from one to 16 years, are "totally exhausted, upset and worn out from all the struggle".

"We cry every day and are losing all hope," she said.

The entire family are suffering due to becoming homeless since last July but South Dublin County Council has failed to take meaningful steps to address their situation after telling them they must "self-accommodate", meaning they must find accommodation which the Council will then pay for, she said in court documents.

While they have identified a four-bed house for rent at €2,600 monthly near the children's schools, plus another house in the same area for €1,900 monthly, the Council had said it will not fund those.

Research by housing academic Lorcan Sirr indicates three months hotel accommodation in two family rooms costs about €20,000 while a short-term three months house letting at €2,600 monthly, plus management and letting agency costs, is almost half that at some €10,300, the family's solicitor Rebecca Keating, of Mercy Law, said.

The mother said, while they are entitled to €1,600 monthly under the Housing Accommodation Programme to get private rented accommodation, the rent for a property in the Dublin area that could accommodate them is generally between €2,900 and €4,000.

She previously viewed about 40 properties and was offered none of those.

It is claimed the family "quite reasonably" previously declined as unsuitable two offers of short-term accommodation, including in a premises housing adults with addiction difficulties.

The longest period of hotel accommodation they have got was three months and that too was unsuitable.

Since March, the parents have frequently slept in their car while the children stayed with different relatives. The family also got accommodation in a short-term holiday let.

The mother said, due to being a family of nine and being Travellers, they experience difficulties getting hotel accommodation and even when they can, the "haphazard and chaotic" nature of the bookings and distances they have to travel are "extremely disruptive", upsetting the children, affecting their schooling and meaning limited ability to provide nutritious meals.

The youngest children have missed about 80% of school since September and one of her sons is a promising sportsman whose training has been seriously adversely affected, she said. She and her husband are very stressed and she has been diagnosed with depression.

In judicial review proceedings against the Council, the family, who by court order cannot be identified, want declarations the Council has breached its statutory obligations under the Housing Acts and failed to vindicate their fundamental rights under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003.

A provisional hearing date has been fixed for June 21.

The family say they were resident in a halting site for several years until last July when they came under an attack which made it unsafe to remain there.

The Council from late September accepted they were homeless within the meaning of the Housing Act and provided them with the "self-accommodation" option.

The Council has repeatedly asked them to surrender their tenancy at the halting site but that required them to confirm they now have alternative accommodation when they do not and so it would be untruthful to sign that, the mother said.

They had to give up the tenancy through no fault of their own and due to being "the victims of crime".

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