Dublin couple ‘sleeping in their car for three weeks’

Rented accommodation was lost after landlord put rent up by 50 per cent

“At night we keep the milk under the car to keep it cold”: Shane and Ciara Dwyer. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

“At night we keep the milk under the car to keep it cold”: Shane and Ciara Dwyer. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

a
 

Shane (27) and Ciara (29) Dwyer, a married couple from the Jobstown area of west Dublin, say they have been sleeping in their car for three weeks.

They lost their rented accommodation on October 31st after their landlord, an estate agent, increased their rent by 50 per cent.

“In April they said they were going to sell the house, and we started looking for somewhere else,” says Ciara. “Then, in August, they said they were going to keep it but the rent was going up from €700 to €1,050 a month. We couldn’t afford that.”

Neither is working. Ciara has severe agoraphobia and experiences panic attacks. Shane has effectively become her carer. She cannot be alone for extended periods. Also, if he did take up employment they would lose their rent allowance. As a safe home is so important for Ciara’s mental health, he says retaining the rent allowance had been a priority.

As a couple, they are entitled to €540-a-month rent allowance and allowed to pay a rent capped at €750 per month. “We haven’t been able to find anywhere,” she says. Staying around west Tallaght is important as she needs to be near her sisters, she says.

At the end of September, the estate agent contacted them to see if they could sign a lease for €1,050 per month. “We had to go. We handed back the keys on October 31st.”

As well as looking for alternative accommodation, since April they had been contacting South Dublin County Council, where they have been on the housing list since March 2008.

“They said there was nothing they could do until the day we became homeless. So we went down then and they said there wasn’t any emergency accommodation for couples, that there were six couples in front of us.”

She shows the letters she has presented to the council, explaining her need for “long-term secure accommodation from which she could continue to address her mental-health concerns”, from an HSE clinical psychologist. She also shows the letter from the council confirming that they are registered as homeless.

While both have family living in the area, they say they can’t stay with them as they live in council houses and it would breach their leases to overcrowd their homes.

“They have kids. They can’t risk being put homeless too,” says Ciara.

They don’t want to be split up. “Shane is my husband. I rely on him so much. I wouldn’t like to think how I’d be without him,” says Ciara.

Living in car

So, since the end of October, and not two miles from where Tánaiste Joan Burton was recently barricaded in her car for two hours by water protesters, the young couple have been living in their tiny 2001 Nissan Micra.

Shane sleeps in the front passenger seat while Ciara sleeps across the small back seat. They have sleeping bags, some clothes, a plastic bag of toiletries. On the dashboard are two tubs of pasta, a plastic carton of soup and three small cartons of milk.

“At night we keep the milk under the car to keep it cold. Soup is all right cold,” says Shane.

“In the mornings I go over to Eurospar, get two cups of tea and sausage rolls to warm us up, and a bottle of water to brush our teeth.”

They go to family, or to a homeless drop-in centre, to wash themselves and their clothes.

“We go down to the council every day asking them if there’s anything,” says Shane. “They just keep saying there’s six couples ahead of us. One guy, when he heard we were sleeping in our car, said, ‘At least you’re in out of the rain’.”

Ciara says she feels “embarrassed, depressed and just scared”.

A spokeswoman said South Dublin County Council did not comment on individual cases.

a