Everyone has heard about the housing crisis in Ireland, rental prices are at an all-time high throughout the country, but in Dublin and the surrounding counties the prices are quite honestly insane.
The ones who have been hit hardest by this have been families, who are no longer able to keep up with rising rents and are unable to secure properties, even with state help. In the week of the 23rd of October to the 29th of October 2017, there were 1,463 homeless families across Ireland - within this figure, there was 3,194 children living in emergency accommodation. Whole families living in rooms in hotels, B&Bs, hostels and other temporary accommodation. Most often with no facilities to cook or even wash clothes. Sounds like a nightmare, right?
But the people who often get forgotten in all of this, are the families who are living in a single bedroom in a relatives home or the families who have been forced out of their homes due to crippling rents, forced to move away from their lives, their families, their friends, everything they know and try building a life where they know no one. Anything to keep a roof over their heads. We are one of those families.
It started for us in the Summer of 2013, we had to move out of our home because the house was being sold. We moved to a cute little cottage nearby and we loved it. There were quite a few little problems with the house itself, there was a pretty bad leak in the kitchen due to a bad extension, but I could never get a hold of the agent who rented us the property. I then noticed that there was a mistake on our rental agreement and again when I tried to get in touch with the letting agent, I couldn't. I called, left messages, sent emails and nothing.
This went on for 4 months and then finally he phoned me back but it wasn't good news. He told me that he would not be amending the error made on the agreement and that he would, in fact, have to increase our rent to be in keeping with other rents in the area so if I couldn't afford it, I would have to move out but if I sent him an email saying I would be out in a certain date that he would return my deposit. I know now that this was totally illegal, but I was young and inexperienced then so thinking I had no other option, I sent him an email stating that further to our phone call, that we would move out of the property on the 28th of that month.
We then set about packing up our things and started trying to find somewhere else. In the 4 months that we were living in that cottage, the rents had gone absolutely mental. We couldn't afford anything that was going up. Moving day came and we had nowhere to go. We ended up moving into my partners family home and to make things worse the crook of a letting agent had never put it in writing that he would return my deposit and so he didn't. So we were living with my in-laws, with no money to secure anywhere else, stuck.
We lived with his parents for 9 months in total. I don't drive and they live in the countryside, so when my partner went to work I stayed in the house. I was there when his parent's friends called in and pointed out that we were 'still' living there. From there, our only option was to give up on Dublin and to move an hour and a half from Dublin, where we stayed for a year and when our lease ended, we spent 3 weeks in emergency accommodation living in a B&B, nowhere near our friends and family.
We then ended up having to move even further away just so we could afford to have a roof over our heads and somewhere to make our children dinner. The house we could afford was cold and damp and we were sleeping on a mattress on the living room floor as a family, as it was the only room where we were safe from mould.
My partner was then offered a job closer to home, a job that would allow us to afford a rent closer to home so we viewed a few houses and found one and we were picked as the new tenants. I finally felt like I was returning to normal and like I could have a life of my own again. It was short lived though. After 8 months the landlord needed the house back for a family member, the rents had risen yet again and we were back to square one. We had to move again. We had to start again, AGAIN.
We still don't feel settled. We've had to move so many times that nowhere has felt like a home. Everywhere has just felt like a stop gap. It's always in my head that 'I'd better not get comfortable.' While I am happy as a mum, love spending time with my children and being together as a family, I have lost everything else that was a part of my life. That is a tough pill to swallow.
An even tougher pill to swallow though is the fact that my children, particularly my eldest have been lugged around through all of this. Our choices were - let him make his earliest memories from a hotel room or leave Dublin, so we left and it hasn't been any easier. He's been in numerous Montessori schools, he's had nowhere to call home for long and now he talks about 'our next house' or says things like 'when we move house again, can I.....' as though moving from house to house is that normal to him. My children have never had a permanent home and while they don't know any different, I know how different it could be and wish I was able to give that to them.
So there it is, homelessness doesn't always mean you are on the street, couch surfing or living in temporary accommodation. You can be living in a house and still not have a home.