Home­less and help­less, this is how we treat a very ill child

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - NEWS - By Ni­amh Grif­fin HEALTH COR­RE­SPON­DENT ni­amh.grif­fin@mailon­sun­day.ie

HE stands in front of four con­crete steps lead­ing to the room where his fam­ily has lived since be­ing made home­less, the nineyear-old boy with cere­bral palsy takes a deep breath and slowly lifts the front of his walker onto the first step. A video posted by his mother to cre­ate aware­ness about child home­less­ness de­picts his brave, heart­break­ing de­ter­mi­na­tion to con­quer the steps.

He doesn’t al­ways win. In May he fell back­wards and ended up in hospi­tal re­ceiv­ing stitches in his head.

This is daily life for David – not his real name – and it has been for 20 months. He’s al­most 11 and his mother Jamie Har­ford filmed his pain­ful process in des­per­a­tion last year and sent it to Dublin City Coun­cil. It re­sponded with a prom­ise of a meet­ing which never ma­te­ri­alised.

Shock­ingly the most re­cent fig­ures for home­less­ness in Ire­land show 5,046 adults with 2,895 child de­pen­dants liv­ing in home­less fa­cil­i­ties in­clud­ing B&Bs and ho­tels.

The govern­ment re­sponse to the grow­ing cri­sis has in­cluded 29 hous­ing strate­gies in the two years and nine months since a home­less man died in the door­way of a build­ing a stone’s throw from Le­in­ster House.

One strat­egy is the Re­build­ing Ire­land Ac­tion Plan which is al­ready be­ing re­viewed. The fact that just 800 new so­cial houses are to be built this year in­stead of the stated tar­get of 5,000 gives lit­tle re­as­sur­ance to fam­i­lies like the Har­fords.

Speak­ing to the Ir­ish Mail on Sun­day this week, Hous­ing Min­is­ter Eoghan Mur­phy was scathing in his cri­tique of the re­sponse of some lo­cal author­i­ties to home­less­ness. As the cri­sis en­ters its fifth year he says many coun­cils do ‘not ap­pear to un­der­stand the ur­gency here’.

Jamie Har­ford de­scribes her heart­break at watch­ing David ma­noeu­vre his walker around nar­row spa­ces and do his home­work on the floor as they don’t have room for the equip­ment which would al­low him to sit up.

‘It’s been hor­ri­ble, I don’t know where to start re­ally. I was with my part­ner for 10 years. We’re not to­gether any more. We split up, it was the stress of be­ing like this, of try­ing to live like this and not be­ing able to change any­thing.’

But her fears now are for her chil­dren – she also has a daugh­ter, So­phie, aged three. David’s med­i­cal team at the Cen­tral Re­me­dial Clinic have writ­ten to the coun­cil on his be­half three times out­lin­ing how es­sen­tial it is for David to have space for his walker and wheel­chair.

But Jamie said that she’s been told her case has been marked as ‘med­i­cal pri­or­ity’ on the hous­ing list since 2011.

‘David’s dis­abil­ity cut off his in­de­pen­dence but this is mak­ing it worse,’ says Jamie. ‘He’s such an ac­tive kid and he loves go­ing out­side. He can’t have friends around to play… there’s such a stigma around home­less­ness.’

So­phie, who was born into homeAS less­ness, doesn’t un­der­stand that a fam­ily can live on their own. Jamie says: ‘It’s hard, I try my best not to cry in front of them but it hap­pens. At night I go into the bath­room and cry, I don’t know if they can hear. I feel like I’m talk­ing about some­one else in a night­mare.’

She said: ‘There is no place to cook here, so we’re or­der­ing take­aways all the time, I try to cook but what can you do? My kids, me; we’re all

‘It’s hor­ri­ble... I don’t know where to start’

putting on weight. All the food you can eat cold is rub­bish re­ally, I used to love cook­ing Sun­day din­ners. Now I’m peel­ing pota­toes in the bath­room sink. The mi­crowave is there on the dresser; I’m so afraid I’ll burn one of the kids. I take them out as much as I can but in the win­ter there’s only the cinema re­ally. It costs a for­tune.’

The Har­fords live in a B&B so re­ceive breakfast but that’s all. Jamie was told this week she is ninth on the list, with the caveat that it’s rare for adapted houses to come up. Last year she was 15th on the list but then dropped to 25th with­out ex­pla­na­tion. The fam­ily was plunged into home­less­ness when Jamie’s part­ner got a new job which raised their in­come €60 above the thresh­old for rental al­lowance. As a re­sult, their monthly rental pay­ment jumped from €30 – sub­sidised by a rent al­lowance – to over €800.

They moved in with Jamie’s grand­mother but when Jamie be­came preg­nant they needed more space. Al­though they qual­i­fied for HAP rental sup­port they could not find a land­lord to ac­cept this pay­ment.

They ac­cepted emer­gency ac­com­mo­da­tion pro­vided by the coun­cil but on the very first night Jamie pricked her fin­ger on a nee­dle em­bed­ded in the mat­tress. The coun­cil told them to find their own hous­ing and it would pay up to €800 a week for a fam­ily-size room, start­ing on Jan­uary 5, 2016.

At that rate, the coun­cil would have paid in the re­gion of €64,000 since for this un­suit­able hous­ing.

In des­per­a­tion, Jamie has turned to home­less ac­tivists for help, and to­mor­row her case fea­tures in a na­tion­wide cam­paign for the Na­tional Day against Child Home­less­ness called #my­nameis.

A Hous­ing De­part­ment spokesman said an ac­tion re­view of the Re­build­ing Ire­land plan is un­der way and fur­ther ac­tion will be dis­cussed at an emer­gency hous­ing sum­mit next month. A Dublin City Coun­cil spokes­woman said ‘it pri­ori­tises fam­i­lies and chil­dren who have spe­cial re­quire­ments for the most suit­able and ac­ces­si­ble ac­com­mo­da­tion’.

des­per­ate: Young mother Jamie Har­ford is at her wit’s end

cramped: Jamie’s fam­ily of three lives, eats and sleeps in one room

danger­ous: The only cook­ing fa­cil­ity is a bed­side mi­crowave

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.