Family hubs: ‘We don’t feel like we’re homeless here’

Christina Foster and her three daughters became homeless when the apartment they were renting was repossessed – now they’re in temporary accommodation

 Family hub: Christina Foster, with her daughters (from left) Ellie (10), Lucy (5) and Kayleigh (8). Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

Family hub: Christina Foster, with her daughters (from left) Ellie (10), Lucy (5) and Kayleigh (8). Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

 

The day Christina Foster (26) and her three young daughters lost their home of almost a decade she was “at rock bottom”, she says.

In March Ellie (10), Kayleigh (8), Lucy (5) and their mother left the apartment they had been renting in Citywest, Dublin since 2008, because it was being repossessed.

“I thought we were safe there. I had moved from the rent supplement to the HAP [Housing Assistance Payment] so the landlord was getting the rent direct from the council, but we weren’t safe.

“To be honest it had gotten to the stage where it was just a roof. For the past three years things were breaking and there was green mould everywhere. I’d get really down about the conditions but the day we had to leave, I was at rock-bottom.”

They spent about a month moving between B&Bs and hotels before, she says, she “got lucky” and received a call from Respond housing asking her to come for an interview for a place in their Tallaght family hub.

The hub has a capacity for nine families: seven in self-contained apartments, and two sharing a kitchen between two apartments.

‘It’s temporary’

“I loved it as soon as I came and saw the place,” said Ms Foster. “We have our own apartment here, with two bedrooms, a kitchen and bathroom. We don’t feel like we’re homeless here. If I could we’d stay for good, but we know it’s temporary while we find our forever home.”

The family hub model – temporary, supported accommodation for homeless families – is being rolled out across Dublin as an alternative to hotels and B&Bs. They have cooking and laundry facilities as well as on-site key workers to help families search for long-term housing.

The Tallaght hub, which was formally opened by Minister for Children Katherine Zappone on Friday, is one of 12 open in Dublin with a total capacity for about 300 families. The first opened in November 2016, also operated by Respond, in Drumcondra. It is anticipated a further six hubs will open before the end of the year and another three by early 2018.

Ms Zappone said the hubs were “good for families” and the opening of the Tallaght facility was a “really good news story”.

‘Better than hotels’

“It’s not even open a year and they have nine families and 24 children who have moved on to their own secure homes. That’s the objective. And we have 50 families in five of the hubs in Dublin who have moved on to secure housing. It’s obviously a lot better than hotels and B&Bs”.

Ms Foster’s daughters go to school in Saggart, 8km away, a journey which takes about 50 minutes on two Luas trams.

“It is a long way but I had to take them away from their pals in Citywest so I couldn’t take them away from their pals in school as well. They have been through too much. You’re trying to do your best by them.

“I am nervous about where we will end up. I really don’t want to go back into the private rented sector. It’s not secure and I couldn’t go through this again. I get down and the girls, they’re my rocks, but they don’t like seeing me down. We want a council house.”