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29 Sept 2022

Desperate families fall victim to Tipperary housing crisis

Desperate families fall victim to Tipperary housing crisis

A housing crisis in Tipperary and the impact it has on families has been highlighted by a local priest

The desperation families find themselves in as a result of a housing crisis in Tipperary has been highlighted by a local priest.
Fr Michael Toomey, Parish Priest in Ardfinnan, has revealed harrowing stories from victims of the crisis in Tipperary.
“I have been told of families sleeping in cars overnight because there was no emergency accommodation and nowhere for them to live.
“Another family I am aware of is where their son is going to secondary school and they were being accommodated in a hotel. However, for some of the days they have to leave the hotel because the hotel is fully booked for other engagements,” said Fr Toomey.

Fr Toomey has written a letter to Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien to express his concerns about the desperate situation families find themselves in because of the housing crisis in the county.

Fr toomey also spoke about another family with three young children and their traumatic ordeal. Fr Toomey said the family had been living in a rented house for the last eight years and their rent payment and HAP payments were all in order.
They were told they had to leave as the landlord was selling the house.
The landlord delayed the sale for as long as possible and for the last few months the family have been in contact with Tipperary County Council.
“Through no fault of the council staff, they could not engage with this family because they were not deemed ‘homeless’.
“They have tried, in vain, to find alternative accommodation. Recently a house went for rent on daft.ie, and in the first day over 80 applicants had applied for the one property. Many landlords are now not taking HAP payments for various reasons. If I or any of their family put them up, they then are no longer regarded as ‘homeless’ and may be taken off the list. Two weeks ago, they went back to the council but again they were not homeless until later that week and told to come back. The day of their eviction they arrived back at the council and were given a letter to be provided with emergency B&B accommodation. Now that they are homeless, now they can go on a waiting list,” said Fr Toomey.
“Luckily this family was able to acquire a B&B and the staff have been very welcoming to them. But of course, in a B&B with two rooms, there are no cooking facilities and now they have a new problem. They now cannot cook so they have to eat out and this is extremely expensive,” said Fr Toomey.

The following is the letter sent by Fr Toomey to Minister O'Brien.

Dear Minister. 


I just wanted to raise a concern which is affecting many people and is increasing almost daily not just locally in our county in Tipperary but nationally. Many families are now being made homeless through no fault of their own and a lack of council or social housing is putting a strain on councils.


In the recent report on Tipp FM, it was reported that the Director of Services in Tipperary, had a meeting with a number of county councilors to discuss this issue and in it, she reassured councilors that the council are focusing on homelessness prevention.


I'm aware of a case where I don't think this has happened through no fault of the Director or the council staff, but because of the rules regarding homelessness.


One family I am dealing with for the last several months, have known that they would be made homeless. This couple have three children, one in secondary school, one in primary, and a baby of 10 months. 


They had been renting a house for the last eight years and had paid their rents and HAP payments all on time. They have been made homeless simply for the fact that the landlord wishes to sell the property which is happening more and more across the country.


Indeed, this family are so grateful to the landlord for extending their stay for as long as she possibly could and even allowing them to leave large items in the house until such time as they are rehoused or when the house is sold. The landlord stated how impeccable the house was left in, and did everything to assist the family by not putting the house on the market or have viewings while the family where there.  


For several months they have been in contact with the council but, through no fault of the council staff, they could not engage with this family because they were not deemed ‘homeless’. Many local councilors, the Mayor Michael Murphy  and our local  TD, Mattie McGrath have tried to assist them and their case, but even they are powerless. They cannot give what they do not have! 


They have tried, in vain, to find alternative accommodation. Recently a house went for rent on daft.ie, and in the first day over 80 applicants had applied for the one property. Many landlords are now not taking HAP payments for various reasons.


If I or any of their family put them up, they then no longer be ‘homeless’ and may be taken off the list.


Two weeks ago, they went back to the council but again they were not homeless until later that week and told to come back.


The day of their eviction they arrived back at the council and were given a letter to be provided with the emergency B&B accommodation. Now that they are homeless, now they can go on a waiting list.


They were also informed that the HAP payment could now be increased but if they were told this earlier, they might have been able to get a property with the extra payment.


The challenge then was to find a B&B. And that's the next problem. There is now a not just a lack of social and council houses, there is a lack of emergency accommodation in Clonmel and the surrounding areas. 


I spoke to the Mayor, Michael Murphy on Friday who told me that there are approximately 15 families in the Clonmel area in a similar situation and many properties which provided emergency accommodation in the past, are no longer in a position to provide this for various reasons. 


Luckily this family were able to acquire a B&B outside the town and the staff have been very welcoming to them. But of course, in a B&B with two rooms, there are no cooking facilities and now they have a new problem.


They now cannot cook so they have to eat out and this is extremely expensive.


They raised this with the council and were sent to the Department of Social protection who initially did not want to engage with them but then where sympathetic and the person gave them a €100 voucher as a ‘one off’.


This family are not looking for long term financial support - just a council house. They're not looking to be paid for food, but because they can't buy food to cook at home they have to now eat out.


In this case I believed that the council will be paying anything up to €900 euro a week for the B&B accommodation. This family are now going from day to day and every week they have to apply for a new letter and look and try to secure emergency accommodation for another week. 


Another family I am aware of is where their son is going to secondary school and were being accommodated in a hotel. However, for some of the days they have to leave the hotel because the hotel is fully booked for other engagements. As I said earlier there is a lack of emergency accommodation and the school are helping this child as best they can by feeding the child and even offering to do the family washing.


I have been told of families sleeping in cars overnight because there was no emergency accommodation and nowhere for them to live.


Almost every day on social media appeals are being made by families asking for places to rent due to similar situations – landlords selling their houses. I'm sure many people could add to this list which I was aware would be a major problem last year.  


When we hear people are ‘homeless’ we sometimes might think that they're homeless because they've done something wrong or because of the life they lead.


This is certainly no longer the case. The cases I highlight today shows through no fault of anybody's, apart from a lack of forward planning from the government, that we now have a homeless crisis that we have never experienced before.

Again, I want to stress, what has happened here is no fault of any of the council staff who are under enormous pressure perhaps the like they have never seen before. I acknowledge the Directors comments that dealing with housing and homelessness was always stressful and challenging, not just on those homeless, but on the council staff who are now inundated with this issue,  and I know in dealing with a similar case a few years ago, the pressures the staff are under to house as many people as possible and as fairly as possible within strict guidelines and rules.

I just want to highlight this because as well as the cost of living, the increase in heating and oil prices, this in itself is a crisis this is just getting bigger and bigger and there seems to be no real solution.

I would be grateful if you and your office could guide me, on how we can help such families and what can be done in this national crisis . 

With every good wish and blessing, 


Yours sincerely, 

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