In the last few days, MLRC has supported two vulnerable families to move from overcrowded and highly unsuitable B&B accommodation, into self-contained houses where they can properly self-isolate and live in security and dignity with their young children.
MLRC has been working with these families for several months, addressing several obstacles they had previously faced in accessing homeless accommodation. Both families have a child with an underlying health condition which puts them in a risk category for covid-19. However, their emergency accommodation made any social distancing and adherence to the health advice of the HSE impossible. We had also already raised concerns about the inappropriateness of the B&B accommodation prior to covid-19 creating further and graver concerns. Each family comprises of a single parent and four children; each family were in a single room of a B&B with no access to cooking facilities and no supports and no keyworker. With no place to store or cook food, the families had to make frequent trips to the shops, therefore coming and going from their accommodation; there was no prospect of self-isolating if the families wished to sustain themselves and access basic supplies.
Neither family were identified by local authorities as being in need of alternative accommodation. Instead MLRC swiftly intervened on their behalf for an urgent change in their accommodation to reduce the risk to the children of contracting the virus and to ensure the families were placed in accommodation where they could properly enjoy family life, cook for themselves, and home school. We were grateful for the quick response of the local authority and the decision our intervention prompted to move these families to self-contained accommodation, with adequate space and services for them to live in security and dignity.
On speaking with one of the families they reflected on their experience of working with MLRC:
‘My experience working with Mercy Law was so perfect, Rebecca was a life saver. When I came in contact with Mercy Law I was in one night only accommodation. I was destitute and going through a really bad time. I had only myself and my four children. I was alone and had no one to rely upon. Mercy Law initially got us moved from one night only accommodation into B&B accommodation. When Covid-19 outbreak happened in Ireland Rebecca reached out to me to see how my family and I were coping. Honestly, Rebecca reaching out was a lifeline. My family and I felt so isolated and worried. Mercy law contacted the local authority without any hesitation and my family and I were moved from our overcrowded accommodation to a self-contained apartment. We feel much safer here. You can hear it in the children’s voices how excited they are to be here. Mercy Law’s work had such an impact. I would recommend anyone in a similar situation to get in contact with Mercy Law.’
We are concerned however about other vulnerable families in this situation. Without the link to MLRC, we cannot see how the needs of these families, who have underlying health conditions that were known to the local authority, would have been identified and addressed. We continue to work with a number of individuals and families whose housing situations have become a major concern in light of covid-19. We are particularly concerned about families in overcrowded housing where domestic strife and disputes are now surfacing and creating unsafe conditions for people. We are grateful for the partnerships with medical and social care professionals that are enhancing our work and continue to take a collaborative approach to resolving these housing challenges for our clients.