Housing problems and homelessness drive demand for free legal services

Martina Brennan, Community Law and Mediation. Photo: Don Moloney

REFUSAL of emergency accommodation, illegal evictions, waiting times to access social housing, and poor living conditions were the top areas of need for those seeking Community Law and Mediation’s (CLM) help in Limerick last year.

The law centre and charity, based at the Social Service Centre on Henry Street, assisted 869 people last year in Limerick and bordering counties through its free legal advice, advocacy, mediation, and education services.

According to its annual report, published this week, a total of 58 per cent of the cases it assisted with related to housing problems and homelessness, issues that were exacerbated by the acute nature of the housing and cost-of-living crisis.

CLM Limerick held free legal advice clinics in the areas of Southill, Moyross, Ballinacurra Weston, and St Mary’s Park. They also facilitate phone appointments annd partnered with Ballyhoura CLG and Novas to provide free legal advice and community talks. In total, they held 117 free legal advice clinics in 2022.

Amid recent controversy and delays, Community Law and Mediation is now calling for a range of reforms and clarity on the status of the referendum on housing.

Sign up for the weekly Limerick Post newsletter

Martina Brennan, Solicitor and Coordinator of Community Law and Mediation Limerick, said: “Last year, individuals and families contacted us in very desperate situations, some having been refused access to emergency accommodation, and others who were living without heating or running water and dealing with poor sanitation, a breach of their basic human rights.”

“With a severe shortage of housing and a consistent rise in the numbers being recorded as homeless, these problems are getting more and more difficult to resolve.”

Ms Brennan believes there are steps that can be taken at local authority level to make it easier and fairer for people who find themselves homeless or facing homelessness.

These, she explained, include ensuring consistency across all local authorities in the treatment of applications for emergency accommodation; providing training for housing officers within local authorities to ensure they are aware of the State’s legal obligations in relation to housing and homelessness; and addressing the vacancy and dereliction that we see all around us.

Later this year, CLM Limerick will publish research on the Regeneration Programme in Limerick, relating to the regeneration of the housing stock and the living conditions of people living Southill, Moyross, Ballinacurra Weston and St Mary’s Park.