'Desperate' family faces court for squatting

A young homeless family of four is facing court after squatting in an empty council house in Co Meath.

Pregnant Melissa Wilde (21), her partner Patrick Bernard Hand (26), and their children 20-month-old Cyra and three-month-old Levi are squatting in the vacant council property in the Windtown estate in Navan, Co Meath.

The couple have been there for several days, saying they were unable to find anywhere to live. But they have been ordered to attend the circuit court within 21 days if they don’t surrender the property. Meath County Council is seeking to repossess the house.

“We are afraid but hope the judge has sympathy for us,” Ms Wilde said. “We need our own home and privacy but we haven’t been able to find anywhere to rent. I went straight to the council in Meath two weeks ago. They offered me a place at a women’s refuge but I’m not a victim of domestic violence, so I couldn’t stay there.”

The story was originally covered by the ‘Meath Chronicle’ and the couple say they’ve received no additional support since their situation was highlighted. But they face court for staying in the property which Ms Wilde says has been empty since last year. Meath County Council says the property has only been empty since May 20 this year and this is an illegal occupation.

“It’s very stressful,” Ms Wilde said. “I’m in the early stages of pregnancy and I wish I wasn’t going through this but what option is there?

“The council told us the property is only empty three weeks but I have seen it empty since last year.

“My mum lives nearby, so I saw the house regularly. The whole house looks so much better now we’ve cleaned it.

“But I have a letter in my hand, we received it on Thursday, it’s a demand for repossession ordering us to leave within 21 days of the date.

“Council workers dropped off the letter. They knocked and we let them in. The man was very nice but we’re not going, as we have nowhere to go, so although we are worried, we have to hope the judge will show sympathy.”

Ms Wilde claimed she and her family haven’t been offered emergency housing but she has been on the council housing list for three years.

“We need somewhere for us all to live as a family,” Ms Wilde said. “I’m four-weeks pregnant. Some people are saying I’m trying to jump the queue but that’s not true, this was desperation.”

A Meath County Council spokesman said the local authority is not in a position to comment on individual cases.

“However, illegal occupation such as occurred in Tailteann Street, Windtown, deprive those social housing applicants who are due to be offered social housing, of having their housing need meet, in accordance with Meath County Council’s allocation scheme,” he added.

“The property concerned became vacant on May 20, 2019, as a result of a tenant transfer under the auspices of Meath County Council’s housing strategy for persons with a disability and the property would have been returned to productive use following the normal pre-let and allocation processes.”

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