Mercy Law Resource Centre provides free legal representation to individual clients on homelessness, social housing and related social welfare matters.
Given the limits on our available resources, it is not possible to provide legal assistance for all those who request it. We open new files after considering the following: whether the case falls into our priority areas of work and having considered the nature of the claim, strategic importance of the case and its potential impact on our client group, the geographical area, and our own resources and capacity.
Criteria for taking cases:
We prioritise cases of urgent need and vulnerability and operate a list of key areas of priority. Examples of areas that we are currently prioritising include:
- Access to suitable emergency homeless accommodation for families and vulnerable individuals;
- Addressing issues of prolonged stays in unsuitable emergency homeless accommodation for families and vulnerable individuals;
- Access to the social housing list, in particular for individuals and families who are homeless or who are at risk of homelessness.
We also consider the nature of the claim, including the seriousness of the matters raised, the impact of the issues on the applicant, the likely response by the public body to the matter and the likelihood of success of any claim.
We assess the strategic importance of a new case with regard to whether:
- The matter raises an important matter of principle and falls into an area of focus for MLRC;
- The matter raises issues where significant case law has not been developed;
- The proceedings will or are likely to have a beneficial impact for our broader client group.
We are focused on bringing cases strategically, that have a broader impact on our client group. Our client group includes: individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless and those facing problems in relation to accessing social housing or related social welfare supports. Our target client group includes people who do not have the financial capacity to avail of private legal representation.
Cases in other areas such as family law, criminal law or landlord and tenant law that are outside our remit are referred where possible to an appropriate service.
Before opening any new case, we have regard to our existing work load and any backlog of cases. We also have regard to any resources that are available to MLRC and our capacity to properly progress any new case.
For examples of cases we have taken please click here.
Just before the end of the year, we acted for a single mother of two children aged four weeks and sixteen months. Our client was discharged from a maternity hospital with her four week premature baby on to only night to night accommodation. The young mother had nowhere to go with her very small children during the day and was unable to breast feed her infant in comfort or to safely sterilise bottles. It appeared that the client was afforded only night to night provision as her social housing application remained pending and further documents were required in order to process the application.
Fortunately, immediately after the intervention of MLRC, the client was put on in a secure and stable booking in a hotel. We argued that the provision of suitable emergency accommodation is not contingent on the completion of the social housing application, that under the regulations, the local authority has twelve weeks to determine. Our client had no prior need to submit a social housing application as she was in employment and had secure housing up until she presented as homeless. While many challenges remain for our client, the securing of stable emergency accommodation for her was a very positive outcome just before the Christmas break.
Towards the end of 2018, MLRC acted for a young single mother who had been residing in her late mother’s property for several years. The client lived in the property with her young children. The local authority refused an application by the client to succeed to the mother’s tenancy and we were contacted by the client when she faced eviction proceedings in the District Court. MLRC represented the client in court with the support of a pro bono barrister and negotiated a resolution of the case, such that the local authority agreed to provide alternative accommodation to the client in the local area. The client averted homelessness and was able to remain in her home area.