VIDEO - Housing Crisis: tent is new home

A young Creggan family claim they have been compelled to live in a tent because the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, has been unable to find them accommodation in Derry.

Paul Fisher, his partner, Audrey Buchanan and their two year old son Ethan who are now living in the front garden of his mother’s Rinmore Drive home, had been living in privately rented one-bedroom accommodation in Rosemount until the landlord asked them to leave in order to refurbish the premises. The couple contacted the NIHE last September, and claim they were told help was unavailable as Muff born Audrey: “had no connection to Northern Ireland.”

Paul Fisher and his partner Audrey Buchan pictured with their son, 2 years-old Ethan, outside their tent at his parent's Rinmore Drive home in Creggan. DER3013JM49

Paul Fisher and his partner Audrey Buchan pictured with their son, 2 years-old Ethan, outside their tent at his parent's Rinmore Drive home in Creggan. DER3013JM49

Local councillor, Kevin Campbell, said the NIHE has: “questions to answer over the case.”

Explaining the family’s dilemma, Paul Fisher commented: “We appealed that decision and have now been told we have to wait a few weeks for temporary accomodation. We gave the NIHE our notice to quit as soon as we got it. The house in Rosemount was riddled with damp, it was really unhealthy, the tent is warmer than that place. The NIHE have known we would be homeless for weeks and we presented as such on Wednesday.”

The couple were forced to erect the tent as all the bedrooms in Paul’s family home are occupied. His mother, Anna Fisher said: “I feel terrible but I’ve nowhere for them. Their belongings are split between the hall and the attic. We can’t move. My 8 year old autistic grandson is staying with us this summer and he isn’t handling the stress well. The house was adapted as my husband has a spine condition so we’re bursting in here.”

Describing her family’s situation as: “awful, simply awful” Audrey Buchanan said going back to Donegal wansn’t an option.

“We can’t afford a new deposit for private renting either. I told the NIHE we had nowhere to live but they said it would take time. I’ve never even stayed in a tent before and now I feel like I’m letting my son down.”

City Councillor Kevin Campbell, said: “This shouldn’t be happening in this day and age. This isn’t a fresh case, they have been talking to the HE for almost one year. We have a housing crisis in Derry akin to that experienced here in the 1950s and 1960s.”

A spokesperson for the NIHE said: “This couple presented as homeless last Wednesday. They are currently being assessed under the homeless legislation and should hear the outcome of this within the next few days.

“Unfortunately there is a severe shortage of temporary housing in Derry at this particular time, but the couple were offered the opportunity of temporary accommodation outside the city. They have however decided not to take up this offer of assistance.”