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Dublin: 3 °C Saturday 16 November, 2019
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'It was filthy, absolutely filthy': Homeless family 'bitten by bed bugs' in hotel room

Sandra* currently lives with her two sons (ages eight and 11) in a hotel in Dublin.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

A HOMELESS MOTHER and her two sons received bites after they were placed in a hotel room with bed bugs.

Sandra* currently lives with her two sons (ages eight and 11) in hotel accommodation in north Dublin.

The family was renting in Dundrum for over 10 years but were forced to move out of their home when the landlord gave notice as he needed it back to give to a family member.

Sandra is originally from Australia but has lived in Ireland for over 18 years. She is  currently going through a divorce from her sons’ father.

The family presented as homeless at Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council about six weeks ago.

Sandra said that she inquired into more than 400 private rental properties for herself and her sons but was unable to find anywhere where they could live within the limits of the Housing Assistance Payment.

She works part-time in childcare but has been unable to work in recent week due to having to care full-time for her children.

The family were placed by the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) in emergency accommodation across the city in a hotel.

Sandra’s boys’ school is in the Dundrum area on the south side of the city. One of her children has SPD (sensory processing disorder), anxiety and dyslexia. His counsellor is also located in the Dundrum area.

As are the family’s friends, occupational therapist, their health centre, as well as the fact that her son deals very badly with change.

Sandra has looked for homes in areas all over the south side of Dublin and into Wicklow in an attempt to find a home with access to Dundrum.

The hotel

The family moved into a single room in the hotel with a double and single bed.

Sandra noticed a number of issues with the room immediately.

“That one – there was basically no hot water in the hotel for four days, there was lukewarm water,” she told TheJournal.ie.

There was silverfish in that bathroom, turn the shower on and it flooded the bathroom. Then the leak coming through the roof onto my bed was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Sandra said she complained to the management of the homeless accommodation section of the hotel and her family was moved to a new room.

stains on flooe Stains on the floor of one of the hotel rooms.

This room was in a worse state than the previous one.

“It was filthy, absolutely filthy,” Sandra said.

“When we moved in… there were cigarette burns on the sheet through to the mattress, so the sheets hadn’t been changed – there was a big stain on them and there was someone else’s hair on them.

“Stains all over the carpet. The bathroom, parts coming off the bath. Stained chair.”

bla bla bla Cigarette burns in one the mattresses.

She said she complained to the manager who, she said, told her that the room had been cleaned and that her family had caused the mess.

“So when he walked out I videoed what he had accused us of doing and I found the bed bugs there and I was fuming – absolutely fuming,” she said.

Sandra said she discovered bed bugs on the bed that she and her sons were sharing after she had been told that the bed had been properly cleaned.

The family all received bites on their skin and went to the family doctor to be diagnosed.

bites 2

“Sandra* and her two sons attended me today,” the doctor wrote on a note dated Tuesday of this week, seen by TheJournal.ie.

“They are in homeless accommodation and have noticed bed bugs on the bed. They all have multiple red spots all over which are itchy.

These are consistent with bites.

They were prescribed Pirotin and anti-inflammatory medication.

BBugs Bed bugs on the bed in the hotel room.

The family have been moved into their third room in the hotel now. Sandra said that she hopes they can move back closer to the boys’ school and services soon.

There is a kitchen in the hotel but Sandra said that it was “filthy” and that many of the residents don’t cook there. The family have had to live mostly off takeaways since they have been homeless.

Sandra said the entire ordeal had been very tough for her and her family.

“It’s very, very difficult. I’ve broken down a few times,” she said.

“I think when the leak came through the roof I just went out crying – ‘Jesus Christ like come on, seriously!’ This place is disgusting, no one should live like this.

It’s just a real shit situation and no one should have to be put through that.

Hotel accommodation 

Private hotel and commercial providers in Dublin have been used increasingly for homeless accommodation over the past five years, as the number of homeless families have shot up.

Latest figures released yesterday show there were now 1,739 families with 3,755 children living in state-funded emergency accommodation in Ireland last month.

The vast majority of these are in Dublin, where the problem is at its worst.

Financial figures released yesterday show that €97 million was spent by the government on emergency accommodation in Dublin last year. Just under €50 million of this was spent on hotel accommodation for homeless families.

There are still thousands of homeless children living in hotels in Dublin – with more families being moved into new group-type family accommodation called family hubs.

There have been numerous complaints by homeless residents about the conditions in homeless hotels and accommodation.

Common complaints include damp, bed bugs, violence, mould and many other issues.

Council issues 

People Before Profit TD for Dun Laoghaire Richard Boyd Barrett has been attempting to advocate on behalf of Sandra and her family in order to have them moved to more suitable accommodation.

“This is a shocking example of the disastrous housing emergency that is just getting worse every day and where the human consequences for people like Sandra* and her children are unspeakable,” he said.

The fact that she has to bring her two children – including one with special needs – across the city from north Dublin to Dundrum to bring them to school every day… is absolutely scandalous.

Boyd Barrett said that his team had contacted Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council to request that at “an absolute minimum” Sandra should be allowed to self-accommodate – where she can find her own B&B to live closer to her area – but that the council has yet to respond.

“The conditions are completely unacceptable for a family with young kids… to be in sometimes dangerous, ill-kept, not properly maintained accommodation,” he said.

It’s just totally outrageous and shocking that a private company is making money out of all of this.

Boyd Barrett also said that the fact that Sandra couldn’t find anywhere within the limits of the Housing Assistance Payment to rent proved that the payment was inadequate.

He said that this meant the government’s reliance on HAP as a form of social housing was “a disaster waiting to happen”.

“No one helps”

Sandra said she is desperate to find a more suitable place for her and her sons to live.

She said she has made efforts to contact council officials and others, but that no one had been able to help her.

“I’ve called them all – I’ve called Dun Laoghaire again complaining, given my son’s medical history,” she said.

“They said, ‘I don’t deal with this so you need to call [the homeless Central Placement Service at] Parkgate Street’.

“I called them they said, ‘we don’t deal with this – call allocations’.

“I called allocations they said, ‘I’m sorry there’s no direct phone number for you to speak to someone – we’ll email them and they’ll call you straight back’.

That was weeks ago and they never called me back.

“Everyone just keeps passing you to someone else saying, ‘no, this isn’t our problem. Call this person, call that person, I’m sorry they shouldn’t have actually spoken to you.’

No one returns calls, no one takes responsibility for anything. Will someone just do their job.

She said she and the boys are finding the situation increasingly tough. She had been told she will be moved somewhere more suitable soon, but isn’t entirely hopeful that this will happen.

TheJournal.ie made efforts to contact the hotel in question for comment.

This reporter called the hotel lobby and was told no one was available to talk, no contact details could be passed on, and that they wouldn’t take a message before the person promptly hung up the phone.

A spokesperson for the DRHE said that it does not comment on individual cases for reasons of client confidentiality.

“When a complaint is received about emergency accommodation it is dealt with under our complaints procedure,” the DRHE said.

“All complaints are actively pursues all complaints and has a formal complaints policy that deals with all complaints received.

Inspections are often carried out on foot of complaints received and are categorised under a number of key headings.

*Sandra’s name has been changed to protect her identity 

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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