John Johnson (54), along with his sons David (29) and Adam (21) and David’s girlfriend, Debbie Moloney, were evicted from their Assumpta Park home a week after Mr Johnson and Ms Moloney both lost their jobs due to Covid-19 restrictions on pubs and restaurants.
The family were left “walking the streets”, after bailiffs called last Saturday, and they have been sleeping under Sarsfield Bridge due to a lack of homeless bed spaces.
I’ve never been in this situation ever before, it’s heartbreaking, I’ve worked all my life.
Mr Johnson today revealed he has been under additional financial pressure after paying off a €600 drug debt owed by his son Adam (21).
“It’s a dirty habit he has. I have begged him to come off it but he just can’t at the moment. He needs help, I need help, my heart is broken,” he said.
There was no update in the family’s housing situation this Wednesday, however they had “found temporary accommodation for a few nights”.
“We’re still in the same boat. I just want to go back home, the nights are cold.”
“I can pay €400 a month, I’ve no problem paying that. Myself and David and his girlfriend, we’ll put the money in.”
“It’s heartbreaking, seeing the house boarded up”
“David’s on the dole and Debbie lost her job and I lost my job. We are waiting for the pandemic payment to come through. All I have this week is €90.”
“My youngest son Adam gets €103, but I had to pay €600 to a person who gave him [heroin], I had to pay it, people don't know that I pay that for my young fella.
“I had to pay the drug debt for Adam.”
John’s third son, Nigel, a twin of David’s, lives in a separate property, Mr Johnson said.
“I need help. I was working and I was paying off debts for my young fella. I wouldn't like to see him get hurt by anyone,” Mr Johnson said.
Heroin has robbed his youngest son of everything, he said.
“It’s horrendous stuff, I have begged him to come off it and he can’t come off it. People have said to me he won’t come off it until he’s ready to come off it.
“Adam is also heartbroken the house is gone. He got paid the other day and it’s gone already. I can’t take money off him - It’s a dirty habit and he can’t come off the stuff.
“I’m begging him for years to come off it. It’s heartbreaking to see my son like that. I look after him all the time, he’s still like a baby to me."
Last February the High Court ruled that a financial fund was entitled to possession of the Johnson’s house under a “lifetime” mortgage obtained by Mr Johnson’s father Larry, eight years before his death in 2015.
Larry Johnson had taken out the so-called “reverse” mortgage in 2007, as a condition for getting a loan of €52,700.
However, John Johnson said he can’t afford to satisfy the loan in one go, but has offered to pay €400 per month.
Crying under Sarsfield Bridge where he and his son David and his girlfriend have slept for the past few nights, Mr Johnson said: “The bailiffs came Saturday morning and told us to get out of the house.”
“I asked them what about Covid-19 and they said that we had to go and that they were only doing their job – they told us to get out of the house.”
The Johnsons left the house with “no place to go”.
They contacted their Council’s emergency homeless action team and continue to engage with the local authority over trying to secure accommodation.
“It’s ridiculous, especially with the pandemic,” Mr Johnson said.
“I’m working all my life in the bar trade. I was on a community employment scheme for three years, and then I got another job in a pub. I was there a week and it closed due to Covid.
“I’ve never been in this situation ever before, it’s heartbreaking, I’ve worked all my life.”
The family slept just feet from where Mr Johnson’s brother Jimmy died by suicide 10 years ago, in the River Shannon.
“It’s been very tough, my mother Rita also went into the river. Jimmy went in first and my mother couldn't take it and she went in. My nephew Ross also went into the river,” he cried.
“It’s my dad’s house, our family home for the last 60 years. My dad had Alzheimer's Disease and I looked after him for the last five years of his life.”
The Johnsons claimed they felt “intimidated” because the bailiffs were dressed in dark clothing, wore hats and masks and doused the property, clothes, beds and furniture in bleach.
Local Independent councillor Frankie Daly said he was trying to help source accommodation for the family.
“I think it's appalling that, in the middle of a pandemic, that a vulnerable man and his family have been left to sleep out under a bridge,” Cllr Daly said.
“I’ve been in touch with the [Council’s] homeless action team. Over the weekend (the Johnsons) have had difficulty in contacting the emergency number. There’s a resource issue there and I think we need more funding in being able to put people up in hotels.”
There were 2,654 people on the council’s housing waiting list, while 128 persons and 30 families were in local homeless accommodation.
A spokesman for Limerick City and County Council said it the local authority “does not comment on individual cases as it doesn’t believe in discussing a customer’s personal matters in a public forum”.
"However Limerick City and County Council can confirm that the out of hours service did speak to the customer in question on Saturday and outlined their options and the process that all those seeking Emergency Accommodation must follow.
“An assessment of the customer has now taken place.
“The current situation with Covid-19 has been challenging for the provision for homeless services but Limerick Homeless Action Team are working to ensure spaces for all those presenting.”