Council seeks to remove mother and children from vacant house
‘Don’t mess my three babies about. I just want to keep them safe and secure’
Claire Elliott at the house in Belcamp Avenue. She has been on the council housing list since 2008. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw for The Irish Times
Dublin City Council is seeking the removal of a mother and her three young children from a vacant council house they have been occupying for almost two weeks.
Claire Elliot (29), who has been on the council housing list since 2008, lost the home she was renting in Darndale, north Dublin, a year ago as the landlord was selling. She and the children spent “about two weeks” placed in different hotels and B&Bs, sometimes 30km from the children’s school.
In January she moved into her mother’s house. “We were arguing all the time, about the noise, the children.”
Ms Elliott had heard about a vacant council house in Belcamp which was yet to be boarded-up. Two other houses on the road are boarded-up.
“I was walking past and I thought I’d chance my arm. I tried the front door and it opened. The keys were just inside the door. I was very lucky. There were these two couches here, and a rug. It was quite dirty but I cleaned it up.
“The electricity was disconnected but I called the pre-pay number, told them I was living here and they sent me a code to the meter and sent me out some pre-pay cards.” She had beds in storage and had them delivered.
The three-bedroom house is in some disrepair – a bathroom window is broken and a bedroom window won’t close – but it is habitable. Her children – Chase (7), Harper-Rose (4) and Pixy (1) – have settled well, she says. “It’s just normal for them. They do like it. It’s normal.”
Two days after she moved in council officials arrived. “They were knocking on the door shouting ‘you’re illegally trespassing’ and ‘we’ll be bringing you to court’. I was petrified.”
The following day she attended a meeting of the local council housing section, accompanied by a friend who is active with the North Dublin Bay Housing Crisis Committee. “The council said they wanted me out of the house. They rang later and offered me a hub. I asked for a timeframe but they couldn’t give me one.”
Her case was before the High Court on Friday and has been adjourned for hearing on Tuesday. On Friday she heard in court the council envisages her being in a hub for three years.
“I quivered when I heard that. I nearly hit the deck,” she says, becoming tearful. “They’d leave us there three years.” Asked why she would not like a hub, she says she has viewed two and knows other mothers in them.
“You’re in a room with bunk beds, barely any room for a cot. People are arguing, taking each other’s food – arguing over the washing machines, arguing over the kids. They’re stressful places.”
She says she is not asking to stay in the house, but wants a guarantee as to how long she will be in a hub. She is also wary of going back to the private rented sector with the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). She has looked for a house to rent within the HAP rent limits and cannot find one.
“I need a house where we can stay. I don’t want HAP just to end up on square one again. I won’t be fussy or greedy. I’d take a house outside Dublin. I just want a timeframe. Don’t mess my three babies about. I just want to keep them safe and secure.”
A spokeswoman for Dublin City Council said: “The family who have illegally occupied the house is on the housing list but there is a large number of other families ahead of them with greater priority . . . The council is prepared to offer this family emergency accommodation immediately if they hand over the property.
“Unfortunately it is not possible to give a definite timescale for this as it is dependent on availability and what locations/type of housing that they will be willing to accept.”