Philip McCormack preparing to sleep in his van. PHOTO: Seamus Farrelly

‘I’m putting blankets and a mattress in the van and that’s where I’ll sleep’

A DISTRAUGHT dad from Johnstown who has been forced to sleep in his van after being made homeless believes he has been failed by a broken housing system.

Philip McCormack (53), says he will be living out of his Peugeot Partner for the foreseeable, claiming Meath County Council refused to approve an extra €20 per week in housing assistance payment.

The healthcare assistant who bravely worked on the front line during the pandemic, caring for Covid patients in a local nursing home, is now facing life on the streets.

The Johnstown man, who is planning to use a gym's facilities to shower and shave, is forking out €200 per month to store his belongings and is facing a long and cold winter without a home.

His partner Katarina, who is currently ill and waiting to return from her native Slovakia with their two-year-old daughter, Christina, to have surgery, is making the situation all the more urgent.

The family had been renting a three-bedroom home in Johnstown for two years under the HAP scheme, until April of this year, when the letting agent informed Philip that the landlord was selling up and they had three months to vacate the property.

Philip's attempt at securing another house for €1,780 was shot down by Meath County Council, who said they could not approve the extra €80 per month, explaining that the dad of one would need to find somewhere else at €1,700 or less per month, or become homeless.

"For €20 per week Meath County Council is making me, my two-year-old daughter and my sick partner homeless," he said.

"The whole system is broken and it's wrong."

"After getting word that our landlord was selling up, we found another house and it was €1,780 for the rent. I went to HAP and they told me to ask the landlord to bring the rent down to €1,700, but that was a no-go.

"I then found a house between Kells and Virginia for €1,440 and I was delighted with myself. I went back to the council and said great news I found a house, and they said no, we can only cover for you for €385 for that house because it's County Cavan, but you can go to County Louth.

"So, I can rent a house for €1,700 per month in Meath or Louth, but when it comes to County Cavan, a few miles up the road, they only allow €400 - €1,300 less. They have been bouncing me around like an idiot for the last four months, and now I'm homeless."

Working in a nursing home during the pandemic took its toll on Philip, who watched many residents pass away from the deadly virus, leaving him unable to cope with the job.

"We got away with having no Covid there for a long time, we worked so hard. There was a lovely woman there who was 90 years of age and she reminded me so much of my own grandmother.

"One morning, I got her up out of bed and helped her with showering, I put her into her wheelchair and I got her breakfast and before my shift had finished that evening, I had to lay her out because she had died of Covid. And this happened every day for 10 days and I just broke and I left the job stressed.

"Around the same time, my partner was having a really difficult pregnancy and spent most of it in hospital in Slovakia. I was back in Ireland working and had to fly out every second weekend. It was very hard.

"Katarina is a nurse and is unwell at the moment and is due to have surgery for a medical issue in January and after that we will hopefully both be back at work; we just need some help in the meantime."

Philip has slammed Meath County Council's homeless service system, saying he is now paying more storing his belongings than he did renting a three-bedroom house.

"I was passed on to the homeless department, who said all we can offer you is emergency accommodation - it'll be a bed and breakfast - that's if we can find you one," he said.

"I was told we wouldn't have access to washing machines and we wouldn't be able to cook and that we would have to eat out in restaurants.

"I said you are going to charge me the same money that I was paying for a four-bedroom house, €48.50 per week, to put me in emergency accommodation and you want me to go to restaurants to eat?

"I asked what I do with my belongings, and they told me I'd have to put my stuff into storage. The cheapest storage I could get is in Kildare for €200 per month, which is more money than I was paying for a three-bedroom house.

"I gave my car back to the dealer on Monday and I bought an eight-year-old van yesterday and I'm currently now packing it up with blankets and a mattress, and there's where I'm going to live."

Meath County Council have been contacted for comment.