'We've nowhere else to go' - family squatting in empty council house
A homeless couple squatting in an empty council house with their two children have been ordered to appear in court.
Pregnant Melissa Wilde (21), her partner Patrick Bernard Hand (26) and their children Cyra (20 months) and three-month-old Levi moved into the property some days ago.
They say they are unable to find anywhere else to live and their families have no room for them.
However, the couple have been ordered to attend the circuit court within 21 days if they do not surrender the property on the Windtown Estate in Navan, Co Meath.
They claim the house has been empty since last year, but Meath County Council, which is seeking to repossess it, says it has been vacant since May 20.
"We're afraid but hope the judge has sympathy for us," Ms Wilde said.
"We need our own home and privacy, but we haven't been able to find anywhere to rent. No one will take us as we haven't rented before, but our family homes are just too crowded.
"I went to the council in Meath two weeks ago. They offered me a place at a women's refuge, but I'm not a victim of domestic violence so I couldn't stay there.
"And I wouldn't bring the children there and leave my partner with nowhere to go.
"It's very stressful. I'm in the early stages of pregnancy and I wish I wasn't going through this, but what option is there?
"The council told us the property is only empty three weeks, but I've seen it empty since last year.
"My mum lives nearby, so I saw the house regularly. You could see how long the house had been empty because there was dirt built up.
"We have cleaned the whole house up, we're looking after it. We're not going as we have nowhere to go."
Ms Wilde claimed she has been on the council housing list for three years.
"Some people are saying I'm trying to jump the queue, but that's not true, this was desperation," she said.
"I was ashamed of doing this, but we felt we had no options left. We just hope someone listens, that someone offers us some support to find a stable home."
A council spokesman said the authority "is not in a position to comment on individual cases".
He added: "However, illegal occupation such as occurred in Tailteann Street, Windtown, deprives those social housing applicants who are due to be offered social housing of having their housing need met in accordance with Meath County Council's Allocation Scheme."