Mother defends moving family out of ‘isolated’ house to sleep in car

Jennifer O’Regan left Focus Ireland home ‘up a mountain’ to be closer to supports in Cork

Jennifer O’Regan with her children Charlene (15), Scarlet (5), Michael (11), Victoria (13) and Madison (3): they have  been sleeping in a car as they seek accommodation in Cork. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Jennifer O’Regan with her children Charlene (15), Scarlet (5), Michael (11), Victoria (13) and Madison (3): they have been sleeping in a car as they seek accommodation in Cork. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

 

A mother who has been sleeping in her car in Cork with her five children has defended her decision to give up a property in Co Clare, saying that while she was grateful for the offer it was completely unsuitable for her needs.

Jennifer O’Regan has been sleeping in a parked car outside Kilcully cemetery in Cork with her five children who range in age from 15 to three.

Focus Ireland had housed her in a property in a remote area “up a mountain” in Corofin. However, she left the property and returned to her native Cork three months ago in the hope of securing accommodation there.

She has been presenting for emergency accommodation at a homeless persons unit, which is funded by Cork City Council and operates under the auspices of the Department of Social Protection.

This week, the family slept in the car for three nights. They have also been staying intermittently with parents and a sister who live in small houses on the northside of Cork city.

Ms O’Regan said she returned to Cork because the situation in Co Clare became untenable.

“To be fair to Focus Ireland they secured me a beautiful private house. But it was completely isolated. It was up a mountain. The nearest shop was three miles away.

“I had no transport... I needed to get back to Cork where I have family. The children were miserable.”

Ms O’Regan lived in the UK for many years but fled to Ireland fifteen months ago to escape domestic violence.

She was made aware that there was a refuge in Ennis and she spent a year there. Focus Ireland then stepped in and offered her the property in Corofin.

A council spokesperson said Ms O’Regan owed the local authority rent arrears from a previous tenancy, “which is just one of the reasons we are unable to qualify her for social housing at present.

“Local authorities do not write the legislation governing housing allocations, but will implement their terms fully and transparently, and we are doing that in this case also.”

However, Niall Horgan, southern regional manager of the housing agency Threshold, said Ms O’Regan had been subjected to “disgraceful” treatment.

“She has no partner and should never have been turned away when she looked for help. Even with the arrears. It is all bureaucracy.”

Mr Horgan said the phenomenon of parents sleeping in cars with their kids was becoming common. “People have to be near their family for school and things like that. Accommodation in Clare is not suitable for this situation.”

In a statement, the Department of Social Protection said that data protection law precluded it from commenting on individual cases.

However, as a general remark, it said: “Many cases are complex and require the intervention of more than one agency to meet the needs of the applicant or family group.”