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My life in a hotel room: Ireland’s hidden homeless crisis


Laura, do you know where the bag
with the antibiotics is? Oh, here. That’s one antibiotic. Don’t know where the room key is. Nuala and her daughter Laura are homeless. For the last two weeks, this hotel room has been their home. I can never find this. There is no normality. It’s the not knowing, the uncertainty, the insecurity, despair. What is going to become of you. Then failure. Inadequate parent. And it just spirals out of control. Getting up in the morning, getting ready, that in itself you have to deem
as an achievement and sort of say,
‘OK, well, you’ve done it today.’ More than 9.700 people across Ireland
are living like this, in emergency accommodation. Now my daughter goes to college, I make a point of getting up
and dropping her in because I would hate to think what I would become if I didn’t have that focus. Right, see you at two-ish. Love you lots, take care. Nuala’s landlord was forced to sell
by his creditors, an increasingly common situation in Ireland
following the financial crisis. She was told with only three months’ notice
to find a new place to live. OK, the U Store is here on the left, that’s where all our belongings are stored until we finally get somewhere
to call home. In reality, it slaps you in the face. This was our life, this was our home. And now we have neither. This one here. There’s something in the letterbox. Yep. And there’s no one in it …
we could have been still there. Oh my God. There’s an envelope in there, I hope it’s not
Laura’s bank account stuff. How long were you living here? Nine and a half years. Strange that I can’t go in. I was sort of half expecting to see blinds down,
for sale sign up. But no, it’s lying empty. You know, gosh. Are you angry? No, you do get past that stage. You just become, I suppose, numb. And just go … what could have been, what might have been. You know, there was no need for me
to be out so soon. So I don’t know what the delay is
in putting it up for sale, but I’m not angry. When they first registered as homeless
six weeks ago, the council placed Nuala and Laura
in various hostels on a night by night basis. Here we go. Thank you for calling Dublin city council’s self-accommodation line for hotel bookings. Please hold. Thank you. Their hotel placement is more secure, but Nuala has to call every two weeks, to reapply for their room. Your current position in the queue is seven. Seven? Your current position in the queue is seven. Could be on seven for 20 minutes! Hello. Yeah, that booking has been confirmed there for you, OK? Happy days, thank you so much. No problem. Have a good day, bye. Done, two weeks. Yeah, thumbs up! I’d rather have a home! There is a chronic shortage of social housing in Ireland. Governments just haven’t been building
council houses. As an alternative, authorities offer a housing assisted payment
scheme called HAP, under which councils pay rent
to private landlords. Nuala qualifies for HAP but under the terms of the scheme, it’s her responsibility to find a home to rent on the open market. And in Ireland today, those are few and far between. Every day she goes to the library to search for properties and apply for viewings. It’s a nightmare. It’s an absolute nightmare. All you want is just
that one person to say, ‘I’m going to give these two girls a chance.’ Would you have a computer free? Just over there, number C4. C4. Great, thank you so much. She sends out at least five applications a day. But in five months, she’s had no luck. Rental properties are so in demand that few even make it to a public viewing. Your confidence takes a battering
every single time. And there’s only so many times you can be knocked down and you can’t get back up. But if you don’t apply,
you won’t know. Roger Berkeley has been an estate agent in Dublin
for 40 years. I have never seen it this chronic for tenants in how difficult it is to find a home. I’ve never seen it as it is now. Even though the rents have gone up,
they’re sky rocketing, rents that would have been
€1,200 a month five years ago, they’re now over €2,000 a month. What would you say are the causes
of this current crisis? Lack of supply of houses or properties
or apartments for the increasing number of tenants
that are coming to the market. We’re coming up to a house in Palmerstown
that we recently let. So this house here, was this like a exemplary case of how the rental market works at the moment? Homeless HAP? Yeah, and that was a house
that went for €2,000 a month. This is the one thing about homeless HAP, you can have last year’s professionals are this year’s homeless HAP sometimes. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on an open wound, it’s shovelling money at a problem,
it’s not solving the problem. The problem is going to be solved by more housing being available
for tenants, I think. A succession of Irish governments has relied on private developers to construct the country’s social housing, but the private sector has failed to deliver. Are you on a waiting list for a council house? I am. I’ve been on it now I would say seven years and I’m listed in around the 600 mark. So possibly another six or more years. Nuala is one of more than 70,000 people
on a waiting list for a council house. But despite the huge demand, this current government has built fewer than 500 homes since it was elected in 2016. When this government formed in May 2016,
priority number one was to deal with the housing situation at that time. We recognise that you can’t fix the housing
supply issue overnight, so we put together a five-year plan, which we launched in August 2016. But according to that plan that’s 85%
of the total of new social housing is actually going provided by the private sector
until 2021. Our commitment to that plan is that with a 6bn spend of taxpayers’ money, is to deliver 50,000
new social houses. Do you agree that the solution
to the housing crisis is for the government and the local authorities to be building more housing? Absolutely and that’s exactly what we’re doing. You’ve got 1,300 families in Dublin alone currently in emergency accommodation which means moving from hotel room from night to night or week to week. So we’re trying to make sure that those people
spend a very short time in that emergency accommodation, then move on to a more permanent house
and that can be a rented house or a purpose-built house,
but what they want is a house. Literally every week we have a
housing discussion, housing meeting, to make sure we stick to our plans of investing taxpayers’ money in new social houses
and that’s what we’re doing. Built by the government and not by developers? Built by the government, yes. There’s a combination of ways of
building houses. This department doesn’t physically go out
and put the blocks together. Naturally you pay builders to do that. But it’s state money building state houses
that the state will own. While Ireland waits for these promised houses
to be built, there’s little option for the almost 10,000 people squeezed out of the private rental market
and into hotels and hostels, but to wait and hope. How are you feeling? Are you able to sleep? I’m on medication, antidepressants
and anti-anxiety. Without those, I wouldn’t have that baseline of normality. And really, it’s not healthy
to be living in this environment. And it certainly isn’t healthy for your child
to witness a parent who’s supposed to keep her
safe and secure, is now lacking in self-confidence
and motivation. Oh my God. There’s always that knot in your stomach. That never leaves you. You know, the people in reception know
you’re homeless. And you’re wondering how they perceive you. Go on, go for a paddle Babs! Ew, Mammy touched me, Mammy cooties! You do feel that bit of stigma
that is attached with that word ‘homeless’. You automatically assume a rough sleeper, a down and out, someone who may be addicted to drugs
or alcohol or gambling. You don’t expect it to be just normal people. Okie dokie, Babs. You alright? It’ll be fine, don’t get upset. We’ll be grand. The homeless charity Focus Ireland
has been helping Nuala and Laura since they were first made homeless. They’ve put them on a shortlist of families to be considered for a flat which is being offered exclusively to HAP tenants. This is the problem I had last week
trying to bloody locate it. This is the second time the charity has put them forward for a flat in this block, they missed out on the last one. So do we have to park over here?
Oh, is he looking for it? Oh God, could be. That’s, he was here last week with her! So we’re all early. We’re not good enough, obviously. Come on Babs, let’s boogie baby. Here we go again. Looks nice. It’s a bigger block. Like you’re afraid to get your hopes up but I suppose we have to have some sort of hope. So fingers crossed. Can I get back in the car? ‘Can I get back in the car!’ I’m cold! Get back in the car. There you go. Thank you. Just somewhere to call home, somewhere you can cook and wash. Yeah, hopefully. Hopefully.

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