Mother and son (5) sleeping in tent with pet dog outside Limerick Council as weather reaches freezing

Charlene Whelan (29) and her five-year-old son slept rough outside City Hall in Limerick City last night. Photo: Brendan Gleeson.

COLD, tired, and running out of hope for a dry warm bed for Christmas, Charlene Whelan and her five-year-old son slept in a tent in freezing conditions outside City Hall in Limerick City last night (Sunday) and face another night on the streets because they have nowhere to go.

As Met Eireann issued a Status Yellow low temperature/ice warning for some parts of the country, Ms Whelan said: “Last night was very cold, nearly -2 degrees Celsius.”

The 29-year-old native of O’Malley Park said that, up until last night, she was staying with a good friend. But with no alternative accommodation available, last night she and her son slept in a tent on a cold concrete pavement on Merchant’s Quay.

“I got all my son’s teddy bears and little blankets to keep him comforted and I even brought along his dog, so we had heat from the dog thank god,” Charlene said.

“I woke up during the night and saw that my son’s face was close up to the tent, so between the rain and (lack of) insulation, it was very, very unsafe and very unhealthy as my son has asthma and eczema.

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“My son’s immune system is run down. He doesn’t understand why no one is helping us, he thinks everyone is mean.

“I had to set my alarm and wake up every hour because I feared that my son would sleep in a corner on a wet patch.”

Becoming emotional, Ms Whelan said: “I don’t know how we survived it, and, if I don’t get help as soon as possible, especially before Christmas, I don’t think I will last longer in this world.”

“I feel like I am failing my son because my son is asking me why is no one helping me and why is this happening to us,” she said, fighting back tears.

“I actually have nowhere to go that is safe for my son. He is five years old, he is my baby, he is my life.”

Ms Whelan said she felt that homeless services in the city were unsafe for her and her son.

She explained that she was “barred” from Limerick City and County Council’s homeless action services last year up until November 17 this year, due to an alleged incident which she claims was not her fault and for which she has issued a complaint to the Council.

Ms Whelan, who previously worked as a cleaner, said she remains unable to access emergency accommodation in the city and cannot continue to call on family and friends for help. She said her and her son’s current situation is chaotic.

“All I want is a routine for my son. The homeless action group refused me a bed for my child,” she says.

“I stayed outside Limerick city council last night in a tent with my son and it was hurtful because my son went to asleep last night baffled he doesn’t know who is safe anymore.

“I tried to look for accommodation, I was ringing hotels, I tried my best, but I could not get anywhere because I had no money. I only have €40/€50 in my pocket and that’s not enough for a hotel, so I had no other option but to sleep rough with my child.

“I was barred (from the Council’s emergency homeless services) a year until 17th November, but it’s been two weeks since then and I am still not entitled to a bed.”

A spokesman for Limerick City and County Council said it does not comment on individual cases.