Two young mothers spoke about the great stress of raising their children in crowded spaces while waiting for suitable housing.
Arleigh McGrane has just turned 24. She lives in the home in Bray, Co. Wikclow where she grew up with her mother, sister, two nieces, and her two children of her own and her brother.
It’s a compact three-bedroom house that was never designed for eight people, but when she was forced to move out of her own rental apartment, she had no choice.
Ms McGrane has been on the Wicklow County Council housing register for two years and is keen to have at least one room to raise her two three-year-old sons, Brody and Bradlee (2).
The cramped council house they live in is in Ard Chualann, Bray.
It is also the home of her mother, her two boys, her younger brother Caleb (22), her sister Enya (25) and Enya’s two girls Rhiannon (7) and Arinna (4).
All the bedrooms are occupied so Mrs McGrane and her two sons have to sleep in the living room on the couch and in a cot.
“I’m forced to sleep on the couch with my two kids,” she said, adding that they left the house during the day “so people can sit in the living room.”
She added: “At night when I’m putting the kids to bed, people are going in and out of the house waking them up. It’s a bit hectic – crazy.”
Ms McGrane knows there is a huge demand for council housing in Bray. She is frustrated that there are so few houses available there and when any are available they are too expensive for her.
The mother of two is unemployed and has been on the Bray housing list since February 2020.
Wicklow TD John Brady has written letters to the council asking for support but suitable accommodation has not yet been found.
Ms McGrane was hoping to return to the Bray Women’s Refuge, where she had previously lived for some time after son Bradlee was born, but was unable to get a place. The director of the shelter said: “At Bray Women’s Refuge we provide short-term emergency shelter and support for women and children when domestic violence and coercion create an unsafe home environment.
“Housing options are limited but we are working closely with councils and other authorities to access the supports available.
“Filling out forms, gathering information and interviewing are all part of a timely process that we can support.”
Meanwhile, single mum Martina Blee, 29, originally from Carraroe, Co. Galway, has been homeless and reliant on the goodwill of friends to make ends meet despite working full-time.
She was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis five years ago and has been on Sligo County Council’s housing list for four years.
Working as a store manager and part-time English teacher, Ms. Blee balances childcare, medical treatment and the constant search for safe housing.
Ms Blee and her son are now sleeping on an inflatable mattress in a friend’s living room. “I’m on a very cold living room floor. I put our stuff in a small room with four other adults in the house and in a bathroom,” she said.
After being forced to leave her previous accommodation last July, she had no idea how difficult it would be to find a new place to live. “I started looking and there was just nothing. I wrote to landlords and got no response,” she said.
“I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten. I’ve heard stories but you don’t think this is a problem in quiet Sligo. I wasn’t overly concerned as I had had my application with the municipality for years.”
Ms. Blee is most concerned about her son, who has quickly adjusted to the new living situation. But she said it was getting harder and harder for him as time went on.
“It’s taking longer than any of us ever expected,” she said. “It broke me the other day when he put a pillow between us on the air mattress and said, ‘Look, it’s like we have our own room.’
“He needs his own space to be alone at times and there’s nowhere for him to do that.
“He’s getting older and needs some privacy. When you’re eight years old, you don’t want to sleep with your mother.”
Sligo Councilor Arthur Gibbons said the reason Ms Blee was unable to secure a council house was because there was simply nothing available in Sligo, even for those high on the priority list. “I’ve never seen a crisis like the one we’re experiencing now,” he said.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/it-broke-me-when-my-son-put-a-pillow-between-us-in-the-air-bed-and-said-look-its-like-we-have-our-own-room-41990424.html “It broke me when my son put a pillow between us on the airbed and said, ‘Look, it’s like we have our own room.’