Sit-down protest at City Hall to highlight issue of rising rents

Patricia Kelleher and her father, Pat, protesting in Cork's City Hall yesterday.

A woman made homeless by rising rents and who has been forced to live in a women’s refuge for the last two months has pleaded for a council home.

Patricia Kelleher, 43, from Cork’s northside, was among several people who staged a sit-down protest outside the housing office in Cork’s City Hall yesterday.

“I worked all my life. I never drew the dole. I always helped others and now I’m looking for help and no-one will help me,” an emotional Patricia said.

“Please, just find me a home. I’ll have to stay in the refuge until the council houses me. I have nowhere else to go. I’m just looking for a one-bedroom apartment. That’s all. It’s just a home — that’s all I want.”

Organised by the Anti Austerity Alliance’s (AAA) new Housing Action Group, the protest was designed to highlight how the Government’s new Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) scheme could remove more than 4,000 people from the city’s social housing waiting list.

“The housing waiting lists should be reduced by building and allocating thousands of social houses — not by forcing people off the lists to fiddle the figures,” AAA’s Cllr Mick Barry said.

Ms Kelleher ran a pub business until the recession hit. In 2010, she had to move from where she lived above the pub to private rented accommodation where she was paying €560 rent a month. But her landlord experienced his own financial difficulties, and had to increase the rent by €200 a month, before ultimately being forced to sell the house.

Last March, Ms Kelleher had no option but to leave the house and move into Edel House — a refuge for homeless women in Cork city.

She has been living there since while desperately searching for accommodation.

“I have tried everywhere, even outside the city, for rented accommodation,” she said.

“I went to see a one bedroom bedsit which had been viewed by 16 people already.

“But landlords won’t take rent allowance anymore because there is such a demand for private rented accommodation.

“I was on the housing list since 1998 but when I went to check my status in January, they told me I had only been on the list for four-and-a-half years.”

She praised the staff of Edel House in recent weeks.

“They can’t do enough for me. They are there when I’m upset, they listen to me when I’m crying, they are unbelievable,” she said.

“But it’s supposed to be temporary emergency shelter and no-one is moving out because they can’t get homes.

“There is one woman with six children who have been there for the last five months.”

Her father, Pat, a former soldier who served on several overseas peacekeeping missions, said it is soul destroying to watch his daughter in this situation.

Mr Kelleher said his three bedroom bungalow just doesn’t have room — his wife needs her own room due to illness, and their two sons live there too.

He said he has trawled the city and identified several suitable vacant council homes.

“The housing department tell me they are given out, but the neighbours up there tell me they are not gone,” he said. “All Patricia is asking for is a one-bedroom apartment — she’s not asking for anything more than that.”

Ms Kelleher, who is on disability and undertaking a CE scheme, has her meals in her parents’ home, but has to return to the refuge every night.

“To see her walking out of door, to go back to a refuge, even though they are excellent there, it’s no place for her, she shouldn’t be there,” Mr Kelleher said.

“I was never involved in a protest in my life. I’m ex army, always abided by the law, but I’m going to have to go to the ends of the earth to get this sorted.

“I can’t watch my daughter’s life going down the drain for the sake of a one-bedroom apartment.”

There are around 490 vacant council houses in the city.

The government recently announced a €1.5m grant to bring 92 vacant local authority houses in Cork back to use.


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