'It's a bizarre situation': Boss of Limerick homeless charity speaks out

MID-WEST SIMON COMMUNITY UNMASKED AS BUYERS OF SIX HOMES WHERE FAMILIES FACE EVICTION

Nick Rabbitts & Maria Flannery

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'It's a bizarre situation': Boss of Limerick homeless charity speaks out

Residents of Fishermans Quay at Grove Island, who are facing eviction PICTURE: MICHAEL COWHEY

SIMON Community bosses have been left red-faced after it was revealed the charity is one of the groups seeking to buy apartments to leave families homeless.

In an interview this Thursday, the charity’s boss Jackie Bonfield said she only learnt the group was buying six units at Fishermans Quay in Grove Island this Tuesday in a move which would have seen several people made homeless.

She claimed it was Housing Minister Simon Coveney who earlier this week met with the Grove Island residents who actually disclosed it was the charity buying the apartments through the Munster Pensioner Trustees Fund.

Ms Bonfield has conceded that the last couple of days have been “bad” for the charity.

But, she has this Thursday pledged residents will be allowed to remain in the apartment complex when the charity purchases them – if they are on the housing waiting list.

It’s understood three of these tenants are on the council’s list – but the other three could still face homelessness. An unknown buyer is also buying the other two properties, meaning two other residents are also facing eviction.

“It’s a bizarre situation. We definitely do not want to be here. If we got a call today and somebody said you could get out of the deal, would we get out of the deal? If we leave, the people are going to be evicted, and the three we know we can support will be part of that six. We are in a catch 22. Whatever way we go, it’s just bad,” she told the Limerick Today show on Live95FM.

It was this Wednesday the homelessness charity confirmed it is in advanced negotiations to buy six apartments, something described as farcical by tenant Alan McCarthy who could still face eviction.

“It doesn’t make any sense to put people out on the streets to rehouse someone else. People are being made homeless to rehouse the homeless in effect,” tenant Andy Mowat added.

Cllr John Gilligan – who initially helped bring the evictions to light – pledged to turn up at the housing department in City Hall to demand these tenants are rehoused if the charity’s plans go ahead.

“It decries all kind of logic if a charity dedicated to homeless people tries to buy an apartment and make people homeless. If our housing department does not stop them, I will be turning up with 20 people affected. The housing office better have some solution to their problem,” Cllr Gilligan said.

Solidarity councillor Cian Prendiville added: “If they are buying the properties, it should be on the basis of keeping the tenants in situ. The heart of this issue is the complete lack of social and affordable housing so homeless charities are competing with those facing homelessness for the scarce houses.”

Another tenant Alan McCarthy is “baffled” by the charity’s decision.

”I don’t see the point in buying the property to accommodate homeless people when they are making other people homeless in the process,” he said.

It is not the first time the Simon Community has faced questions.

Earlier this month, councillors questioned the work being done by the charity in buying up houses after it bought a property in a private housing estate in Askeaton.

Cllr Kevin Sheahan said there has been a “duplication of taxpayer money” as a result.

”We have a situation where one of these organisations went into a private housing estate and purchased a house, then allocated that home to a family who had already been allocated a house by this authority,” Cllr Sheahan said.

The issue is back on the agenda for a special meeting of the Adare-Rathkeale district this Thursday.

The meeting has been called especially to obtain information on the involvement of housing bodies like Simon.

A Simon spokesperson confirmed it is in negotiations to buy six units at Grove Island, but stressed that while the process is at an advanced stage, it’s not concluded.

“Mid-West Simon Communities have pursued these acquisitions on the understanding they were being bought as vacant properties. This potential purchase was seen as an opportunity to provide much needed affordable accommodation to those experiencing homelessness,” they said.