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Sunday 1 October 2023 Dublin: 17°C
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# Carlow
High Court throws out case of homeless mother who was sleeping in a tent outside council building
The woman had argued the council had failed to provide her with emergency housing, but the local authority said it doesn’t have the necessary resources.

A HOMELESS WOMAN and her six-year-old son said they have “no idea” where they’ll sleep tonight after their demand for the immediate provision by Carlow County Council of emergency accommodation for them was thrown out by a High Court judge.

Karen Middleton and her son Luke, who had been living in a tent outside the local authority’s offices in Carlow, had brought proceedings in the High Court challenging the local authority’s refusal to provide them with emergency accommodation.

In his judgement today Justice Charles Meenan dismissed her action, which had been opposed by Carlow County Council.

Following the ruling the Middleton’s solicitor Sinead Kerin of Mercy Law Resource Centre, said they were disappointed with the decision. She said Karen and Luke did not know where they would be living tonight.

The court had heard that after leaving the tent the Middletons had been living in accommodation paid for through charitable donations, pending the outcome of the court’s decision, the solicitor said.

Karen Middleton had left Dublin with her son in late March and returned to her native Carlow following a breakdown in her relationship. She had stayed with relatives until they were no longer able to provide them with shelter.

In April they presented as being homeless at Carlow County Council’s offices and, while initially having been refused emergency accommodation the Council put them up at B&Bs for short periods up until 12 June.

When the council stopped providing them with accommodation on 12 June last month she staged a sit-in before being removed by the gardaí. She then took up residence in a tent outside the council’s offices.

Due to fears her son may be taken from her, friends and supporters of the Middletons allowed Luke to sleep on their sofas. She had tried but had been unable to secure private rented accommodation.

The Middletons asked the High Court for an order directing Carlow County Council to consider their outstanding application for emergency homeless accommodation by way of social housing support or by any other means.

They had also sought an order quashing the council’s decision that the Middletons could reasonably be expected to use alternative accommodation until the mother was able to rent a property.

The council opposed Middleton’s demands on the grounds it had limited resources available and that her requests had been fully considered.

Justice Meenan, in a reserved judgment, said there was no basis to quash the council’s decision and the Middletons were not precluded from making a fresh application for emergency accommodation should further circumstances arise.

He said a detailed meeting between Middleton, who was accompanied with a representative of Focus Ireland, and the council had been held on 24 May last as a result of which he could not say the council’s decision to refuse further emergency accommodation could be “fundamentally at variance with reason and common sense.”

The judge said he was taking into account the resources the council had available and the competing demands on those resources.

The council had told the court there are 150 other persons in Co Carlow in a similar situation to the Middletons, and the council cannot afford to give the Middletons priority.

The judge rejected claims by the Middletons that the council had not given them adequate reasons for its decision.

He noted that Karen Middleton will have a housing assistance payment available to her where she would be paid a sum of money each month to go towards rent.

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Aodhan O'Faolain and Ray Managh
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