DISABILITY activist Evie Nevin says she can finally breathe a sigh of relief knowing that she and her family are safe from injury in their new home.
Evie, her husband and two children, have just been given the keys to a fully adapted house, four years after getting approval from the local authority.
The lack of such housing was one of the reasons Evie, from Clonakilty, ran as a Social Democrat candidate in the last elections.
And even though she no longer lives in fear of a bad fall, it’s why she plans to put herself forward again in 2024.
Evie, and her two children have a genetic condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder which can cause dislocations.
She applied for ground floor housing on medical grounds in 2017 and was approved in 2018.
‘Our specialists in London and Cork recommended we be placed in ground floor housing because of me and my children’s conditions. Stairs meant lots of falls and some near misses of severe injury. Because of dislocating hips, knees and shaky legs, I would spend most nights sleeping on the couch,’ said Evie.
The mum-of-two said her ‘nerves were shot’ from all the falls the children had on the stairs.
‘We were lucky we never had any serious injuries. Especially since Olivia (7) started dislocating at seven months old with no physical trauma. Alexander’s (12) knees, back and pelvis cause him pain,’ she said.
It was important the family moved into a home where they could live safely.
‘While I’m the only wheelchair user in the house, this could possibly change at some point as the condition tends to progress in puberty,’ she said.
She singled out Cllr Paul Hayes who was actively making pleas on their behalf.
‘And eventually I began communicating with the housing department myself and would call and email for updates. We felt it was important to stay in Clonakilty as my children get extra supports in school and our social and medical supports were here.
‘We were offered a home just outside of Clonakilty in April and it’s more than we had hoped. It’s fully accessible and adapted inside and out. I grew up in the country outside of Ballincollig and it was magical to me and I never ever thought my own children would be able to have that same experience. So it’s very emotional,’ said Evie.
Even though it’s taken 13 years in total to come off the housing list, she says she feels ‘extremely privileged’.
‘I would love to see government policy change to increase accessible housing stock. While social housing is supposed to be universal design, that is not suitable for every family. In all new social housing estates, there needs to be at least one family-sized bungalow. It’s almost like people forget more than one person can be disabled in a household and that disabled people have families.
‘In June 2021, I received a reply to a Freedom of Information request I sent to Cork County Council asking how many families like mine were in the same situation.
‘They revealed to me that there were 351 people with physical disabilities waiting on housing, 86 of which were waiting on specifically adapted housing.’
Evie insists that just because she has been housed, she won’t stop advocating and speaking up on behalf of her community.
‘This was largely why I put myself forward for election in 2019 because I didn’t want other disabled people and my children to feel like an afterthought in society.
‘I plan to run for election in 2024 again and if I’m selected by the party, housing for all will be one of the things I will be consistently bringing up in Council, if elected.’
She said she can breathe a sigh of relief as ‘private rental is insecure housing.’
‘My husband and I also don’t have to tense up every time one of us is on the stairs, wait