Homeless mother living in tent outside council offices starts legal fight for emergency accommodation

Karen Middleton outside the offices of Carlow County Council. Pic via Carlow Housing Network Facebook page

By Ann O'Loughlin

A mother and her young son who have spent several weeks living in a tent outside the offices of Carlow County Council have launched a High Court challenge over the local authority's refusal to provide them with emergency accommodation.

The action has been taken by Karen Middleton and her six-year-old son Luke Middleton.

Today their barrister David Leonard BL told the High Court the two have been in the tent since June 12 last after the council refused to provide them with any further emergency accommodation.

Counsel said Karen Middleton left Dublin in late March to her native Carlow following a breakdown in her relationship.

They had stayed with relatives for a period but they were no longer able to provide them with shelter.

Her son also has health needs, counsel said.

On one occasion local councillor John Cassin paid for one night accommodation in a local hotel.

While on other occasions members of the public have also paid for her and her son's accommodation.

Counsel said his clients have sought private rented accommodation but have not been able to secure anywhere to stay.

Last April Karen and her son presented as being homeless at the offices of Carlow County Council.

However, while she was initially refused emergency accommodation by the Council, they were then provided with emergency accommodation at B&Bs for short periods.

In early May, after she was told she had to leave emergency accommodation, she held a sit-in at the council's offices with volunteers from the Carlow Housing Network.

Ms Middleton said she was arrested by the Gardaí after she refused to leave, but then released.

Eventually she and her son were given emergency accommodation in B&B's which lasted from between May 9 and June 12.

When the council stopped providing them with accommodation on June 12 last she staged another sit-in before again being removed by the Gardaí.

If you cannot see the Facebook post above, click here.

She has since taken up residence in a tent outside the Council's offices.

The little boy has been staying in the houses of friends.

On one occasion Karen Middleton said people started throwing items including eggs at her tent and fearing for her safety she called the Gardaí.

In their action the Middletons seek an order directing Carlow Co Council to consider their outstanding application for emergency homeless accommodation by way of social housing support or by any other means.

They also seek an order quashing Carlow County Council's decision that the Middletons could reasonably be expected to use alternative accommodation until Karen Middleton can rent a property.

Counsel said the action has been brought on grounds including that the council's decision that Karen Middleton could rent a property is unlawful.

They claim the decision fails to take into account the information she gave the council why alternative accommodation options were not available.

It is also claimed the council failed to give reasons for its assertion the Middletons could be reasonably expected to use alternative accommodation. It is further claimed the council decision is irrational.

Counsel said the refusal to provide the Middletons with emergency accommodation is unlawful as it breaches their constitutional rights and rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The matter came before Mr Justice Seamus Noonan who said the application for permission to bring the challenge should be on notice to the Council.

The Judge then adjourned the matter to Wednesday.

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