Belfast Telegraph

Housing boost for bedsit pensioner

An 81-year-old woman who has lived in a bedsit for more than a decade is one of dozens of older people to secure a home in a new social housing project.

Patricia O'Brien returned to Ireland 14 years ago to be closer to relatives after 36 years in London and ended up with a room in a house on the Ballygall Road, Glasnevin, Dublin.

"I've never got used to not living in a three-bedroom house," she said.

"I have a bedsit now with a kitchenette and the armchairs but I can't get used to having a bed in my sitting room so I have one that you fold into the wall that I pull down every night and push up every morning - I couldn't look at a bed all day.

"The thoughts of not having that means everything."

The site at Ballygall, built by the city council in 1969 and once home to 76 older people, is being regenerated to provide 39 state-of-the-art houses and apartments for older people.

Ms O'Brien, whose husband Noel died in 1992 and only son Derek died suddenly in 1996, will get one of the new apartments.

She was seen by many residents as the glue that kept the local community together, organising Friday night bingo, soup mornings, song and dance afternoons and day trips. She also prepares an annual Bloomsday breakfast to mark James Joyce's Ulysses.

Ms O'Brien said the rest of the time she spent with family or her collection of dolls, one of which, Bella, she bought in Benidorm three years ago.

"She sleeps with me every night and she sits and minds the house all day. She laughs and she cries and I tell her all my troubles," she said.

Ms O'Brien, who returned to Dublin to be near her nieces and nephews and three brothers and sisters, said the move will mean the world to her.

"I've already put my deposit down on a proper double bed for the new apartment," she said.

Ms O'Brien is one of only eight residents left in the development while the regeneration takes place.

The redevelopment is managed by housing association Fold Ireland with finance from Bank of Ireland and council support.

Fold's development manager Tina Donaghy said: "The economic downturn has made it extremely difficult for local authorities to meet the demand that exists for social housing. Currently there are a total of 242 applicants on the older persons waiting list seeking accommodation in Cabra, Finglas, Glasnevin, Santry."

It is expected that in Ballygall the first two blocks with eight units in each will be available in June and the rest will be complete by December.

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