My life in emergency housing: six to a room and violent crime on the doorstep

In a west Dublin B&B a family of six must live in a single room in a house that recently became a crime scene. A mother describes the ‘nightmare’ of living in emergency housing

Room for improvement: Sinéad O’Connor in the B&B she has been living in with her four children and partner for more than four months. Photograph: Aidan Crawley Room for improvement: Sinéad O’Connor in the B&B she has been living in with her four children and partner for more than four months. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Room for improvement: Sinéad O’Connor in the B&B she has been living in with her four children and partner for more than four months. Photograph: Aidan Crawley Room for improvement: Sinéad O’Connor in the B&B she has been living in with her four children and partner for more than four months. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

The Irish Times recently reported that €750,000 a month is being spent in Dublin on providing emergency accommodation for homeless families.

We are one of those families.

My four children, my partner and myself have been living in a B&B in west Dublin in “emergency” conditions for more than four months. We are all in one room that has two beds for me, my partner and the two eldest, a girl of seven and a boy of five. Our one-and-a-half-year-old has a cot, and the nine-week-old sleeps in a basket.

There is also a fridge that one of the staff at the B&B gave us last week. Our clothes are folded wherever we can find space, so not much room is left to move around. But that is our “home” 24 hours a day. I have no complaints about the people who own the B&B. They are lovely, and the staff are good to us.

Two years ago we were living in a nice house in Tallaght, but the landlord raised the rent, and we couldn’t afford it. We moved in with my ma and two brothers, in Crumlin. It is a two-bed parlour house, and last year the council told us we would have to leave, as it was overcrowded. I refused to leave, but they wrote to social welfare to cut my payments unless we moved out.

We had no choice but to accept emergency accommodation. I have tried to find a house to rent, but when landlords hear we are on rent supplement and have young children they are not interested.

€86 a week on bus fares

One morning a week the kids are usually late for school, because I have to collect the weekly money from social welfare to have enough for the bus fare. I am on jobseeker’s allowance.

Dinner every day is from the local chipper or Chinese. The fridge we got last week will now help me to keep food to make sandwiches. But it’s not the healthiest way to eat.

The kids hate it and are bored. They are confined to the room or playing in the hallway. Sometimes they can play in the back garden of the B&B, but only at certain times, as the garden is shared with other families staying there.

There are also restrictions on washing clothes. My time is on Monday and Friday. We are not allowed to hang washing outside, and the dryer is on a fixed timer, so it takes ages to dry all the clothes.

I have tried to find somewhere to live that will be good for the kids and us. I am always looking for a place, ringing the council twice a week. I have been on the housing list for seven years.

Some of the other families in the B&B have been told they are getting places in Tallaght Cross, but every time I ring the council I am told there is nothing for me.

A council house or apartment in Tallaght would be great for us. Not only for the space but as it would be a shorter bus journey for the kids’ school and I could visit my ma more often. She is very sick, and I can only get to see her about once a month.

We were moved from Crumlin for health-and-safety reasons but moved into a worse situation.

Constant worry about the kids

Watching them inside is also a big problem. We are on the first floor, and, with lots of kids constantly playing on the stairs and in the hallway, accidents do happen.

My one-and-a-half-year-old is starting to learn to walk, and keeping the door to our room closed, to stop her getting out, is becoming a nightmare.

My partner and myself are positive people, but living in one room 24/7 with four young children is tough on any relationship. We can’t go out together and are on edge all the time. We have no friends or family living around here. I am nervous going out, because I was robbed nearby a while ago.

The council doesn’t seem interested. Some of the people on the phone can be ignorant in talking to you. I tell them that I don’t want to be in this situation, but all I get told is to try harder. They say it is up to us to find alternative accommodation.

A crime took place at the B&B this week, and a very good friend who I grew up with was killed. The guards had to search the house afterwards. I have been in Tallaght, staying with my friend, for the past day or two, but the council say I have to go back to the B&B now. They say if we don’t they will take us off the housing list and I will be making myself homeless.

There was another serious assault there recently. The council have said the B&B is a safe place for all of us. It’s ridiculous, and it’s disgraceful the way they’re treating us. What would social services say if they knew you had to bring your kids to a place where there were two violent crimes in recent weeks, including a man being killed?

The way the council is treating everybody in that house is just disgraceful.

The St Vincent de Paul visits and helps out with food vouchers, and I am waiting on Focus Ireland to provide a caseworker.

I used to work in the hairdressing business and also worked in a bar to provide for my children. To get back to a normal way of life for the kids and us is something that I will keep trying for.

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