Laura and Garry’s Story

NOVAS understood what it meant to us and our children’s mental and emotional well being to stay rooted in a place

We met Patrick about a week after our given deadline from our private landlord to vacate the property my family had been living in in West Cork for the past 8 years. We were being faced with the increasing and very real possibility of being made homeless. We had been renting under the council’s RAS scheme and our landlady had to sell the property in which we were living. At that time there were no available council houses and there was nothing at all on the private rented market. Buying was out of the question and so we did not know what to do.

We turned to NOVAS for help. Patrick met with us and heard our story. He helped us explore every avenue, sending us weekly lists of possible properties in our area and liaising with the county council trying to move them on to fulfill their obligation (stated in the RAS agreement) to house us. 

What was most important to our family was not just that we had a roof over our heads, but that we could remain in our community. The children had all been brought up here in Courtmacsherry. Indeed three of them had been home birthed right there in the village. The older children attended the local national school where they were happy and thriving and the whole family was part of the school community, actively participating in and contributing to school life. The older children’s biological father lived in the next village, this allowed them to maintain a close relationship with him and regular access times of 3 to 4 visits a week. My partner Garry had been a volunteer lifeboat crew member with the Courtmacsherry Harbour Lifeboat for the past 10 years, this required him to live within a close proximity to the station to enable him to attend shouts. And I was a volunteer at the community shop.

As Garry and I are not originally from the area, we had spent the previous 8 years making firm friendships and building a community around us in the true sense of the word that gave us the support and help we needed during difficult times. People with whom we shared the highs and lows of life. For us loosing our home meant that we stood to loose all of that too, and it meant that a small rural village would loose a large family of active, contributing members.

 During our meetings with Patrick from NOVAS, he really heard this. The human side of our story. The side that the council housing department don’t have time to listen to. The side that central government didn’t seem to understand. Writing his report, which he later submitted to the council in support for an application for a council house that eventually did become available, this is what he brought to the forefront. It made us a family believe that we were doing the right thing in trying to stay within our community, rather than allowing ourselves to be moved just anywhere in order to be housed.

It is so wonderful that NOVAS as an organisation really understand and support people in their communities. We were made to feel an important and valued part of our village, not a drain, a burden, a problem that needed to be solved. NOVAS understood what it meant to us and our children’s mental and emotional well being to stay rooted in a place. That we have the right to feel that way despite not having the money to buy property there. That we have the right to have a home in the truest, widest sense of the word.

This belief, this support and this encouragement gave us the strength to carry on and several months later we were housed by the council in the most beautiful house, right in the heart of our community. We have lived here for nearly a year now and everyday we give thanks for it and for the life we can live because of it and the start in life that we want to give our children.

Laura Whelan and Garry Barrett