Healthcare worker on COVID frontlines in Dublin living homeless and forced to sleep in car


A healthcare worker based in a Dublin hospital during the Covid-19 crisis has told the Irish Mail on Sunday of her anguish as she has been forced to sleep in her car.

Michelle (not her real name) has been working as a healthcare assistant for seven years and has struggled to find affordable accommodation. On May 2, she was forced out of the rented apartment she had been staying in for four months. For the most part, she is sleeping in her car at night.

She said the organisation Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) has been helping her find intermittent accommodation which is a ‘relief’. Services for the homeless are limited during the day but she told the MoS she is lucky that she can take showers in work.

On Friday, the woman said ICHH found her accommodation in a Dublin suburb. ‘I was so tired and so happy to get a bed, I just went straight to sleep,’ she said.

At the beginning of this month, Michelle had been sleeping in the car park of her hospital because she felt ‘safe’ there but was told she couldn’t when discovered by one of her managers.

Over the last seven years she said she has struggled to find long-term affordable accommodation and has frequently ended up staying in her car or availing of homeless services. Unbeknownst to her, her most recently sourced accommodation turned out to be a sub-let and she was removed by the owner of the property.

‘I was renting a room, it turned out it was sub-letting,’ she said.

‘I only found out when [workers] came to fix pipes one day and they asked me who I was and I told them I was the tenant. They told me I wasn’t supposed to be but I showed them my contract.

‘The next day I came home from work and all my stuff was packed and outside in the front garden.

‘I was there four months, I had a six-month contract and I was told it would be renewed after the six months was up.’

Michelle tries to sleep near rows of shops where cameras are located so she can feel safe. Earlier this week, she was sleeping in her car outside a Garda station but was moved on by gardai.

She said: ‘I told them I was homeless, I’m six stone, I feel safe here but they wanted me to go. I was also given a summons for driving with a provisional licence. I was still asked to drive away though.’

Michelle’s brother died two years ago. She said she would be staying with him if he were still alive, adding that she can’t seek help from her parents because of a difficult home situation.

Trying to deal with homelessness as well as the pandemic has taken its toll, she said.

‘It’s really getting to me, I’m coming in late, I can’t fall asleep in the car, I’m so stressed,’ she said. ‘I was homeless last year in November and I got an infection in my lungs. I was taken into hospital and I got sepsis. I was in hospital for two and a half weeks.

‘That took so much out of me and it still is. My hair is falling out and my doctor isn’t sure if it’s stress or the knock-on effects of the sepsis. The only thing I liked about myself was my hair and now I have none of it left.’

Anthony Flynn of ICHH said services are expecting a ‘tsunami of homelessness’ as the economy reopens. He predicts homeless registrations will increase as hotels aim to open back up to tourism.

‘We’ve a forecast that we’ll see a decrease in the number of homeless registrations over the next two or three days but people aren’t being registered. Michelle was meant to be registered on Wednesday but the team that was supposed to register her never arrived. There’s a blockage in the system.’

He says he has asked for an update on the situation from the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive and Dublin City Council but he says they have given him the ‘standard answer’ that registrations are taking place as normal.

‘People are waiting up to a week if not more to get a meeting in Park Gate Hall [where registrations take place] in order to get themselves registered.

He added that 124 people slept rough last Sunday, up 20% from the Sunday previously.

‘People seem to be moving back on to the streets because social distancing in hostels just can’t be done,’ he said.

‘My fear is what we’ll see is a tsunami of homelessness, once the antieviction restrictions are lifted and landlords can evict again, once people are able to register as homeless consistently we’ll see an influx of registrations, we’ll see hotels that have been taken over by homeless services, will want to reopen to tourists.

‘Although that may be slow, there is a fear that those who are being accommodated through those facilities will be back to square one.’

‘It’s getting to me, I can’t sleep, I’m so stressed’

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Healthcare worker on COVID frontlines in Dublin living homeless and forced to sleep in car