In 2016, CLM Limerick represented a client who attended one of our free legal advice clinics looking for support around her housing situation. At the time, she and her infant child were living with a member of her extended family on a temporary basis. She had previously resided in emergency accommodation but had left the hostel after she was assaulted by another resident, which was reported to the local authority and to the Gardaí. Her temporary living arrangements with her family member were entirely unsuitable for an infant, and her relationship with this family member had broken down. She applied for emergency accommodation but was refused on the basis that she had voluntarily left the emergency hostel. She was informed that she could re-enter the hostel, but she refused to do so due to her fears for her safety. She requested that she be accommodated elsewhere on an emergency basis but this request was refused.
CLM Limerick’s Input
CLM Limerick sought a copy of the client’s file on foot of a freedom of information request and reviewed how the local authority had addressed the client’s request for emergency accommodation. It was noted that the client had initially been deemed homeless for the purposes of section 2 of the Housing Act 1988, however, that the local authority subsequently refused to provide emergency accommodation following the refusal of the client to take up emergency accommodation in a hostel, where she had previously been assaulted. CLM Limerick sought to challenge the decision of the local authority in circumstances where the client was refused emergency accommodation on the basis of a determination by the local authority that her failure to take up an offer of emergency accommodation within a homeless hostel constituted a failure to engage, and consequently that the obligations of the local authority under section 10 of the Housing Act 1988 were met.
CLM Limerick wrote to the local authority, and to their legal agent, on behalf of the client, seeking that they set aside their decision so that the client would be in a position to avail of alternative emergency accommodation. When the local authority refused this request, CLM Limerick briefed Counsel with a view to initiating judicial review proceedings in respect of the decision to refuse alternative emergency accommodation and, following advices from Counsel, sent correspondence warning that we were at the point of initiating judicial review proceedings. At this point, the local authority made an offer of alternative bed and breakfast accommodation to the client, which was accepted.
As a result of CLM Limerick’s intervention, the client was accommodated in emergency accommodation and she subsequently secured long-term accommodation. This case highlights the necessity to challenge the decision of the local authority to provide alternative emergency accommodation in circumstances where emergency accommodation is refused due to fears of safety within the emergency hostel.