Homeless family to sue Minister for Housing

Homeless family to sue Minister for Housing

A homeless family of seven living mostly in one hotel bedroom are to sue the Minister for Housing as well as a local authority to decide if they are entitled to a particular standard of accommodation, writes Ann O'Loughlin.

The family, including a baby born into homelessness and four other children under five, have been in ten different temporary accommodations in four years, the High Court heard.

This would “almost certainly have a detrimental effect on the children’s development and the parents' ability to provide a stable family environment”, according to an independent social worker consultant who assessed the family.

During visits by him to the family last month, their 25.9 square metre hotel room resembled a “children’s hospital ward”. The children's health problems included croup, asthma and various infections, some also exhibited behavioural issues and the parents suffered stress-related illness.

While the family were allocated two hotel bedrooms, those are not adjoining and are five rooms apart, he noted. The family were sleeping and living in one of the rooms with the other used mainly for storage of toys and other possessions. The room where they live has a double bed, single bed, sofa bed and a portable cot.

This arrangement will become “very problematic” as the baby grows as space for her to crawl and walk “is not available”.

Studies showed children living long term in temporary accommodation have considerably more respiratory infections, hospital admissions and developmental delays than children living at home.

The fact they are not permitted to cook means, apart from a hotel breakfast, they eat a lot of fast food, he said.

It was “concerning” baby’s bottles and foods were not allowed to be kept in the room and no small fridge is provided by the hotel. It was “completely unrealistic” the mother would have to ask staff every time she needed access to the baby’s bottles.

The hotel is located on a very busy road with the nearest park about two kilometres away and while the children sometimes played on the hotel corridors, the hotel had said children are not permitted use public area of the premises for recreation.

The parents, both from the South Dublin County Council area and in a relationship for a number of years. They have three children together while the two oldest are the mother's.

They previously lived in private rented accommodation outside Dublin but returned to their home area after becoming homeless in early 2016. They are on the Council's housing list.

They were evicted from other homeless hotel accommodation at an hour’s notice three days before Christmas last, days after the youngest child was born.

They had been placed there by the Council in September 2016 and allege the eviction was without specified reasons but a council official referred to a complaint by the premises owner to the Council the father put a sock over a smoke alarm in their room.

The Council later alleged the family were subject of "multiple warnings" regarding their behaviour at that hotel and a "credible threat" was made to the general manager of the premises on December 21st 2016.

Their solicitor David Joyce said the family got no opportunity to address the complaints and the Council breached its duties by revoking their accommodation before identifying other alternative accommodation. They slept on a relative's living room floor until they got other accommodation through Focus Point and have been in their current hotel since February.

They took proceedings against the Council aimed at securing accommodation appropriate to their needs and ensuring they cannot be evicted in the future without specified reasons.

Today their counsel Cormac O Dulachain SC said, given the Council's position concerning the scope of its obligations, he would be seeking to join the Minster for Housing to the case.

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan, who earlier noted the case may have implications for other families in similar circumstances, adjourned the matter to Thursday.

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