Limerick family forced to sleep under bridge after eviction

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David Raleigh

A family from Limerick city said they were sleeping under a bridge after being evicted from their home at the weekend.

John Johnson (54) wept and explained he and his children were left “walking the streets” after bailiffs called to his home in Assumpta Park last Saturday.

The family said they had been unable to source emergency accommodation due to a lack of available bed spaces.

“I’ve three sons living with me and one of their girlfriend’s. The bailiffs came Saturday morning and told us to get out of the house,” Mr Johnson said wiping away tears.

“I asked if they would give us an hour and they said no they would give us half an hour. They said we were going and that was it.”

“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.”

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“We left and have no place left to go, we are on the streets. It’s ridiculous, especially with the pandemic.”

Mr Johnson claimed bailiffs were carrying a battering ram but did not use it because he let them in when they called about 9am last Saturday.

“I’m working all my life in the bar trade, and I was on a community employment scheme for three years and I got another job in a pub. I was there a week and it closed due to Covid,” Mr Johnson said.

“I’m entitled to the weekly Covid payment but I haven't received it in two weeks.”

“I’ve never been in this situation ever before, it’s heart-breaking. I’ve worked all my life.”

Mr Johnson said his only present option was to “walk the streets”.

He and his sons David and Adam (both 29), as well as David’s girlfriend Debbie Moloney (36) huddled together wrapped in blankets under Sarsfield Bridge on Saturday night and Sunday night.

They slept just feet from where John’s brother Jimmy died by suicide ten 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.

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“I’m freezing. I don’t know what to do. My heart is breaking,” he added.

Last February the High Court ruled that a financial fund was entitled to possession of the Johnson’s home under a “lifetime” mortgage obtained by Mr Johnson’s father Larry, eight years before his death in 2015.

Mr Johnson’s late father had taken out a 'lifetime' or 'reverse' mortgage in 2007 as a condition for getting a loan of €52,700.

I think its appalling that, in the middle of a pandemic, that a vulnerable man and his family have been left to sleep out under a bridge.

However, John Johnson said he cannot afford to satisfy the loan.

“It’s my dad’s house, our family home for the last 60 years. My dad had Alzheimers 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.

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“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.”

The family were this Monday engaging with Limerick City and County Council to try to source emergency accommodation.

A spokesman for Limerick City and County Council replied that 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, they confirmed the Council has engaged with the family and that “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,” the spokesman said.

According to latest figures there were 2,654 people applicants on the Council's housing waiting list.

There were 128 individuals as well as 30 families accessing homeless services locally.

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