A mother of young children, including a baby born 26 weeks premature, is the latest victim of the city’s housing crisis, which has seen rising rents, lack of housing, and the refusal of landlords to accept rent allowance force many families to seek the emergency assistance of the housing section at Galway City Council.
The 25-year-old mother of three children, who wishes to remain anonymous, has struggled to find accommodation ever since August after receiving notice to leave from her landlord who wished to sell the property she has lived in for five years. With no other landlord willing to accept rent allowance the woman turned to the housing section at City Hall for help. With accommodation run by COPE stretched to capacity, the only option available was an emergency placing at Osterley Lodge in Lower Salthill.
However, concerned for the welfare of her premature baby, who doctors advise is at high risk of infection, the woman felt she could not take up the placement. Since last weekend, she has moved from hotel to hotel while meetings have taken place and local representatives have spoken to council officials on her behalf to find a solution. It is understood that, as this paper went to print, the woman reluctantly took up the placement offered with the assurance that the council will prioritise her case. It is hoped that more suitable accommodation will be found by next week.
Talking to the Advertiser yesterday, just an hour before she was due to vacate yet another hotel, the young mother said: “I’m a single parent with nowhere to go. I realise the housing department deal with a lot of cases but there is a premature baby who is at risk of everything. The only option given was Osterley Lodge, that would be fine for me but not for my baby. I have letters from the doctors saying the baby can’t go there. My baby spent three and a half months fighting for her life in intensive care, she can’t even risk picking up a cold. I have to everything sterilised.
Risk to baby’s health
“I’ve been on the housing list for seven and a half years. I’ve seen the housing list, I know where there is housing. There are so many unused houses. Surely there is a house I can use for four weeks until something else is found.”
City councillors Mike Cubbard and Ollie Crowe have both been liaising with council officials to try and remedy the situation which they say further highlights the extent of the overall housing crisis in the city.
“The council get hard cases every day of the week but it should be treated on a case-by-case basis,” said Cllr Cubbard who said doctors’ letters confirmed that under “no circumstances” could the premature baby be placed in Osterley Lodge. The Independent councillor said that as Osterley Lodge and a suitable accommodation provided by COPE elsewhere was full, the council provided a hotel room as a temporary measure.
“The council have an obligation to house them somewhere. It’s a complete crisis. The council are dealing with people looking for accommodation but no one will accept rent allowance. The woman has children starting back at school and they’ve nowhere to live,” he said. Following further representations on Tuesday evening, Cllr Cubbard confirmed that an agreement was made for the woman and her children to stay in Osterley Lodge for a couple of days with a committment from the council that it will prioritise the case and perhaps find a landlord under the RAS scheme.
“The housing department has been meeting and trying to find a solution. They can’t give her priority status unless she takes up a place there. I have a commitment and I will take their word on it. There are families coming forward week in, week out. The council staff have their hands tied as there is a lack of housing. Housing is in crisis and it will continue unless there is funding from central Government,” said Cllr Cubbard.
Fianna Fáil councillor Ollie Crowe has also been in contact with council officials attempting to stress the seriousness of the case.
“With students coming back, the rising rents, the housing crisis makes it very difficult for her to find anything. I was concerned for the her welfare and that of her children, particularly the five month old baby, and pleaded with council officials to find a property. I also contacted COPE who said they have the service, an en-suite family room, and would have the professional and medical care needed. However, all COPE accommodation, bar Osterley Lodge, are full at the moment.
“There is no doubt that in the last number of weeks there have been five to six families presenting to the council homeless but this is an extreme case as there isn’t much family around to support her. The commitment from the council is that once a property is found then secure tenancy would be given but that is not going to sort out the situation in the short-term. The council’s solution of Osterley Lodge is just not suitable. There has to be another alternative, the main concern here is the welfare of this family. It is critical,” said Cllr Crowe.
A spokesperson for Galway City Council said no comment could be made on individual cases. However it was confirmed that the council does provide emergency services which are provided in conjunction with the voluntary sector in the city and these are of “good standard and well maintained”.