A YOUNG Cork mother has spoken of her eight-month despair after her family, who have been on the housing list for 13 years, were forced into homelessness in March.
Marie O’Sullivan and her husband and two children had been living in a privately rented property for the last five years.
However, the owner decided to sell the home and the new owner did not want tenants.
The family had to scramble to find suitable and affordable accommodation in Ballyvolane, the area that their children had called home.
Their search ended in vain and they had to leave their house and enter emergency accommodation.
They have been living in hotels and, subsequently, a holiday apartment.
They have been told they can stay there until December, but the future is far from certain. In a cruel irony, their former home is empty.
Marie had to experience the personal ignominy of presenting her family as homeless to the HSE and move all their possessions to family members’ homes.
They have been without a home for eight months and Marie said the upheaval has taken its toll.
“We’ve been on the housing list for 13 years. Surely, that should meet the criteria to be housed.
“We’re grown-ups and this is hell for us, but when your children are coming to you and asking questions that you don’t have answers to, that’s the hardest part.
“I’m teaching my kids that you go to work, you work hard, you pay your bills, you treat people with respect, and you get on in life and now their home is being pulled out from under them, which completely contradicts everything I’ve ever taught them.”
The situation has had an adverse effect on her children.
“[My daughter] is scared, because the word ‘homeless’, it doesn’t mean anything to her, but it’s the fear of the unknown. No child ever even should have to comprehend this situation. “When we’re going to work, we can’t leave our kids alone in a hostel or hotel room. Nobody can come over to mind them. It has really put our lives on hold.
“I don’t even blame Cork City Council, it’s the whole system. The Government has got it wrong, but it becomes more apparent that if you fight for what, I feel, we are perfectly entitled to, that we are just numbers. We’re not people; we don’t have a voice.
“My children are not statistics, they’re my children and I have to fight for them, but nothing is working.
“We have ended up in this circumstance, not because we were anti-social tenants, or didn’t pay our rent, it’s just a misfortunate effect of a series of events.
“I remember growing up and feeling so, so proud to be Irish and really feeling pride. All that is gone.
“What will my children or your children ever have to be proud of?”
The family now face their first Christmas without a permanent home.
Marie said she would like the Government to acknowledge that homelessness is a problem and then to take measures, such as allowing local authorities to buy previously private rented homes for families.
She believes there is a coordinated effort by the Government to deny the housing and homelessness crisis.